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Postgrad student to sue Oxford college

6th February 2013

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A fresh row over class discrimination has erupted following an Oxford applicant’s decision to sue the university after he had his offer to study at St Hugh’s College revoked due to 'insufficient funding.'

Damien Shannon, a 26 year-old Open University graduate, was initially accepted by the college to study for an MSc in History and Economics. However, despite Mr Shannon being able to find local accommodation nearby for cheaper than that of the university’s accommodation and despite him being able to pay the required tuition fees, the university withdrew his offer because he did not have at least £12,900 set aside for what they described as “living costs”.

Writing in The Guardian, Shannon protested: “The policy of the college and university is that those who do not have £12,900 per annum for living costs are not suitable for admission. This figure is composed of several costs that are set out on the university's website. It requires a prospective student to have £7,250 for rent and utilities, regardless of whether their actual tenancy agreement is for less.”

Adding: “It requires £56 per week for food, including sufficient funds to dine within the college's own restaurant. It requires a substantial sum of money with which to socialise and buy clothes. Oxford appears to be saying that those who cannot afford to dine within their colleges and socialise are not suitable for admission.”

The case was presented to the House of Commons by Hazel Blears last month, who called for urgent government action in order to support post-graduate applicants from poorer backgrounds, stating: “By its own admission, almost half the students who have the academic ability to pursue their studies are unable to take up their places because they simply do not have the money required.”

“In my view, that is simply wrong. Not only does it crush the hopes and ambitions of these students who cannot afford to study at some of our best universities, it deprives our country and our economy of some of the brightest and best minds we could have.

St Hugh’s do not deny discriminating against Mr Shannon but have hired a top QC to fight the suit and are insisting that their living costs calculation is reasonable as well as necessary in order to ensure students do not experience financial anxiety during their time of study. The case will be heard in court later in the month.


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