PPE at Hertford College

Is Oxford Elitist?

Of course Oxford is academically elitist, because we try to select the applicants with the best academic potential. Our courses demand very hard work and intellectual ability, with more intensive tutorial teaching than any other university. So we do our utmost to select carefully the students who are most likely to be able to cope with this, and most stand to benefit from it.

     But we are not socially elitist!

Introducing Will

Will Hartshorn can be seen on this site, enjoying Oxford student life with friends (including the posh dressing up). But he's from a Black Country comprehensive, not Eton ... Will Hartshorn

From a Midlands Comprehensive To Hertford College

"I went to a comprehensive school and was the first pupil in about 6 years to have got into Oxford. So I didn't know what to expect and was slightly worried that I might be entering another world in which I did not belong.

     "As our car pulled up to Hertford College for my first term there I was half excited and half nervous that I had made the wrong choice about which university to go to. Soon I realised I had definitely made the right choice and have never looked back. I realised that not everybody had a rich daddy, spoke the Queen's English and went round in top hats and tails. In fact I was even a bit upset that I wouldn't get to carry out my self-appointed mission of defending 'the rest of Britain' against the prejudices of the upper middle classes! At Hertford most of the students are from state schools, though there are plenty from independent schools too. And even the first year PPEists in my year have a wide variety of accents, coming from Manchester and Wolverhampton to Wiltshire, and from Sweden to Australia. So we're a big social mix, but we all find it fun to dress up in dinner suits!

     "Oxford is a friendly place, particularly Hertford College, and I was made to feel very welcome from the start. Oxford has so many activities to offer that you don't have enough time to do them all: debating, sport, music, journalism, drama, etc. The social life is another surprise if you share the prejudices I had when applying. I expected to be entering a university in which no one went out and everybody sat in their rooms reading all night, feeling envious of my friends at other universities having the time of their lives. Although there is work to be done, Oxford is by no means a place with no nightlife – there is always a good crowd up for a night out or night in.

     "I find the Oxford tutorial system amazing. Having two hours a week of just yourself and one or two others with an expert in their subject, sometimes the writer of the book you have read for the tutorial, is really helpful and interesting.

     "I would recommend people coming to Oxford and visiting a few of the colleges (especially Hertford) to see which ones you like the most and then applying to the University. If you apply and don't get made an offer then you are no worse off than before you applied. But if you are fortunate enough to get made an offer, I hope you enjoy Oxford as much as I am."


A few weeks after writing the above, Will scored a Distinction in Prelims (along with two other Hertford PPEists). Students who come to Oxford from comprehensive schools tend to score better than average, so clearly more should be applying!

     The following term, Will was elected President of the JCR (Junior Common Room), representing all the undergraduates in the College for the subsequent year.

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