How to access Oxbridge: Freedom of Information requests

Finding the information you really want to know about how to get into Oxbridge can be incredibly difficult. Although both Oxford and Cambridge provide a range of application information and admissions videos on their official websites, much of the information is far too banal to be of any real interest. For example, whilst the University of Oxford website will tell you that in order to get a PPE interview you must sit the TSA admissions test, it omits any further information about how applicants must perform on the TSA in order to gain an interview – not to mention how the TSA is graded or weighted. Whilst this information is readily available to privileged applicants who can consult former students and private tutors to find out how the system really works; disadvantaged students are left at a marked disadvantage by Oxbridge’s lack of transparency.

One quick admissions trick which can be used to correct this informational asymmetry is to make use of Freedom of Information requests. Because both the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge are publicly-funded bodies, private individuals have a legal right to not only request information but get detailed and timely responses from both universities on all manner of subjects. The website WhatDoTheyKnow publishes and archives these responses in order to make them readily accessible to the general public at the click of a button.

There is a variety of interesting admissions information which has been made publicly available through Freedom of Information requests answered by the respective universities. For instance, if I’m a prospective PPE applicant who wants to find out more about the importance of the TSA than can be derived from the vacuous statements on the University website, I can access a treasure trove of information from searching through Freedom of Information requests relating to the TSA.

Although Freedom of Information requests differ markedly in terms of the utility of the information they seek to make available, there is plenty of comprehensive admissions information which is of incredible use to disadvantaged students. For example, thanks to a request submitted by John Dodds, prospective PPE candidates have access to a spreadsheet which lists the average TSA scores of applicants and successful candidates at each Oxford college. This data is particularly useful in ascertaining what constitutes a strong TSA score and which colleges might attract a higher standard of applicant than others.

Responses to Freedom of Information requests are therefore a boon to students who would otherwise be disadvantaged through not knowing the ‘rules of the game’. Access Oxbridge resultantly encourages mentors and mentees to make full use of Freedom of Information requests in order to make the Oxbridge admissions process as transparent as possible. No disadvantaged student should fall through the net due to a lack of information!