An Oxford college is being sued for allegedly discriminating against poor students after it rejected applications from postgraduates who couldn't prove they had £21,082 for tuition and living costs.
Damien Shannon, 26, is taking St Hugh's college to court claiming the policy amounts to "selecting by wealth" and bars all but the wealthiest of students.
Shannon had successfully applied to take an MSc in economic and social history but was told his place was conditional on meeting Oxford's financial requirements.
St Hugh's College, Oxford, does not dispute it denied Shannon a place because of his lack of finances
The Radcliffe Camera at Oxford University
According to the Guardian, Shannon's submitted legal papers state: "It is my contention that the effect of the financial conditions of entry is to select students on the basis of wealth, and to exclude those not in possession of it.
"In particular, the requirement for evidence of funds for living costs has a discriminatory effect."
Shannon was only able to raise £10,000 through a loan but could not secure the remaining £11,000.
Former Labour cabinet minister and Salford MP, Hazel Blears, has taken up the case with a parliamentary debate on postgraduate costs being heard on Wednesday, reports the Telegraph.
She said: "Oxford University's demands for a guarantee on living costs are deeply unfair.
“They will price gifted students out of doing these courses and our country will lose out on some really talented individuals.”
A St Hugh's college spokesman said: "The requirement that postgraduate students provide a financial guarantee in order to take up their course place at the University of Oxford is made clear to potential applicants.
"The university and college have both made fundraising for postgraduate scholarships a key priority."
Oxford University refuses to take students' part time job earnings into account, meaning those who do not have the money up front are unable to take up a place at the institution.
St Hugh's has filed a defence against the claims and argues refusing places to students who fail to prove they can afford the fees is to ensure they can complete their courses without anxiety or financial difficulty.
A spokesperson for St Hugh's college said: "The requirement that postgraduate students provide a financial guarantee in order to take up their course place at the University of Oxford is made clear to potential applicants. The university and college have both made fundraising for postgraduate scholarships a key priority."
Speaking to Oxford's student paper the Cherwell, Shannon added: "I have only objected to the living costs element of the financial guarantee, and have explicitly acknowledged the College's right to ensure fees can be paid.
Shannon also says he believes the university's policy contravenes his human rights, citing the European Convention on Human Right's Article 6, which states the right of access to higher education.
"I am demanding lawful treatment, not special treatment.
"A student who is made an offer of study on their first undergraduate course in accordance with their examination results is able to draw on state-funded systems of support – such a system does not exist for postgraduates."
An Oxford University spokesperson said: "Oxford has been vocal about its wish that postgraduate admissions should be truly needs-blind, and works very hard to make progress towards this aim, both by fundraising for postgraduate support and lobbying the UK government to put in place measures to ensure that postgraduates, like undergraduates, have access to loans that ensure postgraduate study is a possibility for all."
The case will be heard next month.
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