Oxbridge without an interview - is it possible?

(30 Posts)
creamteas Sun 14-Oct-12 10:39:52

The thread on Oxbridge applications started me thinking and as I couldn't find the answer on the either uni website, I though I would ask here. This is just out of curiosity mind.

Two of my DC are ASD, and whilst they are really good at maths/sciences they would be highly unlikely to be able to convey this in an interview. They struggle with new places/new people and they take a long time to feel confident with answering direct questions and giving opinions with new teachers (weeks rather than hours). Neither are in sixth form yet, so not old enough to make clear plans about university attendance, but for DC like them, what is or isn't done?

Whilst clearly all universities have to make reasonable adjustments, and both of them mention doing so within the interviewing process, does anyone know if they have/will ever offer alternatives to the interview itself?

TheCollieDog Sun 14-Oct-12 12:36:32

I doubt that not interviewing would be seen as within the range of "reasonable adjustment" when the interview is an important factor in determining whether a candidate is likely to thrive in the very particular tutorial system of Oxford or Cambridge.

Have a look at the excellent Guardian article about the Cambridge selection process from the inside to see how the interview functions as part of the selection process. I think it's linked in the Oxbridge applicants thread.

But it is likely that an interview could include a known, trusted support with the candidate -- probably not a parent however!

I have been involved in twice in situations of HFA/Aspergers PhD candidates & their viva where a key worker was there to support each candidate. Not to answer questions for them, but to be there as a trusted known presence, and to intervene if candidates became stressed, so as to see fair play, basically!

But you know, if the interview is likely to stress a candidate to the point where they may not be able to cope, maybe Oxford or Cambridge is not the right fit for any aspiring student? The interview is in part designed to model the tutorial teaching method, where students will e under constant pressure: at least one weekly essay and tutorial where worked will be explored and the student pushed. A smaller, less pressured university might be better. < irony button on > There are some quite good ones in the rest of the UK, you know < irony button off > (but the obsession with Oxbridge is another thread for a rant, I think)

But why not contact the likely universities nearer the time for application to see what adjustments they routinely make?

Betelguese Sun 14-Oct-12 13:18:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

creamteas Sun 14-Oct-12 13:23:23

I work in HE so I am well aware of the range of reasonable adjustments that are possible. If they choose to go to university, it will be chosen based on a combination of their academic ambitions and the support they will need, not on imagined reputation.

In many ways the Oxbridge tutorial system would suit my ASD DC, as they do not do well in large groups and work better with a closer relationship to a tutor. But I can't envisage them being able to attend an interview at all. I just wondered if this had ever been challenged by a applicant with similar disabilities.

DystopianReality Sun 14-Oct-12 13:38:34

I am watching with interest. I have a dd in year 11 who wants and prob would achieve the nec grades for Oxbridge. However, I cannot conceive of her performing at interview. So there is such a thing as a 'support'? And to declare or not to declare AS? I really felt that Oxbridge would be completely out for us but this is interesting...

Any other helpful info would be most appreciated.

mummytime Belgium Sun 14-Oct-12 13:39:20

creamteas have you been to either Oxford or Cambridge? Because if you really doubt your children could cope with an interview, I agree they probably couldn't cope with the system at either University. Tutorials are not just cosy chats with a Professor once a week, they can be quite pressurised events. In addition there are collections (at Oxford), which are oral examinations held once a term. Mine as a graduate were less in depth and held just once a year, but with the college President.

However the other thing to remember is that your children I believe are not in Sixth form yet, and may well change as they mature.

DystopianReality Sun 14-Oct-12 13:44:41

Oh and I'm with creamteas about the smaller, more intimate environment compared to huge campus'. I worked in Oxford for 7 years and my DH was at both Oxford and Cambridge so we are familiar with the smaller setup.My DD would feel very intimidated with something larger too.

creamteas Sun 14-Oct-12 13:53:07

mummytime given you have never met my DC, why do you think my children couldn't cope? They cope very well with academic pressure when they have got used to the place/people.

All universities have to make reasonable adjustment to exams and that can include switching assessment method (oral/written, exam/coursework) unless there is an exceptional reason not to (eg languages).

Or do you just think that people with disabilities should have their lives limited by inflexible rules just for the sake of them.

MMMarmite Sun 14-Oct-12 13:58:48

Mummytime I think it must depend on the subject, because that wasn't my experience at all. For physics, the termly collections were written exams. Tutorials were challenging but not stressful (unless you were trying to pretend you'd done the work but hadn't!). Physics tutorials were sometimes one-on-one and sometimes in small groups, and they were about working through difficult questions with the tutor, bouncing ideas off each other, or discussing the more tricky/interesting parts of the lecture course.

creamteas Sun 14-Oct-12 14:01:29

Dystopian I would always say declare the disability. If you declare then this can be considered alongside the application and ensure the admissions tutor has the whole picture.

Declaring a disability will only disadvantage applicants if the uni is being discriminatory, and if they are going to act in that way, it is probably best that students with disability don't go there!

BTW at my uni we can arrange lots of transition work if the student would find it helpful. If they are taking a gap year, this can include attending classes/staying on campus for short periods to allow them to adjust. Once at uni the disabled students allowance can include a learning mentor which, depending on need, can pay for as much as 1:1 support in all classes.

DystopianReality Sun 14-Oct-12 14:09:53

That's helpful, thank you creamteas

DystopianReality Sun 14-Oct-12 14:17:26

Mummytime There are often very specific challenges that people with ASD face which are unlikely to change in 2 years, it's not just about maturing and as parents of children with AS you get used to thinking ahead and trying to come up with coping stategies. The changes you speak of may happen but are likely to take a lifetime!

mummytime Belgium Sun 14-Oct-12 15:26:51

I know, but whilst lots of people I knew at Oxford were on the spectrum (very few diagnosed but it was a while ago); they on the whole did not have issues with expressing their opinions. And whilst from the outside the tutorial system can seem better, it can be quite a harsh environment for any student.

I have known lots of disabled students at Oxbridge, and they have had considerable modifications made for them. It also might be a better place to be as a graduate student.

However if it fundamentally involves a style of teaching which will not suit, then there are other places which offer a different experience. You wouldn't recommend that someone who cannot cope with loud noises should attend RADA, I assume?

But if you have real questions I would approach the University and get a lot of specific advice on colleges, and also try to get some insider advice, as the official spin is not always the same as the day to day experience.

Betelguese Sun 14-Oct-12 19:59:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Betelguese Sun 14-Oct-12 20:21:31

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HolofernesesHead Sun 14-Oct-12 20:32:57

Why not have a look at the Disability Advisory Service for both? It's definitely worth a phone call. Think also about the college; some colleges might suit your dc better than others, so choose carefully and check out which have good levels of support. Also, in every faculty there is a disability officer who may be involved in admissions; again, worth finding out who the disability officer of the relevant faculty / dept is, and sending them an email. I'd definitely declare; it'd be in their favour without doubt.

HolofernesesHead Sun 14-Oct-12 20:34:38

Just to add that my tutes varied wildly, from gladiatorial fight to the death, to cosy coffee in the SCR. It's not that scary really! smile

Betelguese Sun 14-Oct-12 22:15:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Copthallresident Sun 14-Oct-12 23:43:34

creamteas One of DDs peers who is ASD is at Cambridge doing Engineering. She was terrible at new places/new people, a tendancy up to 11 to hide in the nearest cupboard / wardrobe when it got too much. We always did say that she would be fine in university because we had known / been taught by similar, what were then known as, eccentrics. She was desperate to go and so was determined to do the interview but as with all her attempts at social interaction she rushed in, but soon became panicy and stressed and asked to leave because she had such a severe headache. One wonders what the point of putting her through that was, it was a very predictable outcome, but she got in. I obviously have no access to the decision making process but she has thrived.

GrendelsMum Mon 15-Oct-12 15:09:59

As Holofernes says, the thing to do is to phone the Disability Resource Centre or similar. You might also want to talk to them about broader concerns - if your DC will take a few weeks to settle down to University life, I wondered whether they might find the short (8 week) terms at Oxbridge rather unsettling?

Betelguese Mon 15-Oct-12 16:49:29

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Betelguese Mon 15-Oct-12 17:14:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

creamteas Mon 15-Oct-12 17:37:28

It is good to know what is possible, and I'll bear it mind when we get to that stage.

Betelguese Mon 15-Oct-12 18:46:12

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

HolofernesesHead Mon 15-Oct-12 19:42:16

OP, have you seen this from Oxford?

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