Oxford University 'Elitism' Comes Under Government Fire

Story of rejected high school student followed closely by British press

Harvard is not often portrayed as anti-elitist. But to much of the British media, Harvard's admission of a middle class student rejected from Oxford has proved just that.

A straight-A student from Northern England, Laura Spence, who was accepted at Harvard, has set off battles in Britain over Oxford's reputation of elitism and the possibility of government introduced "top-up" tuition fees.

"It's enormous here," said Beth A. Schonmuller '01, who is currently completing a semester at Oxford. "It's all over all the papers and everyone is talking about it."


The "Spence Affair" story appeared in 157 major newspaper yesterday alone.

Much of the controversy stems from Oxford's reputed preference for applicants from privileged backgrounds over those who had attended state schools.

The British press has cast Spence's admission to Harvard as indication that American universities are less elitist than their British counterparts.

And now members of the British government are using the incident to attempt educational reform.

Gordon Brown, British chancellor of the exchequer and second to Prime Minister Tony Blair has called Oxford's decision to reject Spence "an absolute scandal."

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