Yesterday, a presumably slow day at the BBC saw an article published on their website about somebody rejected from Oxford 'getting back' at the university. On being turned down by Magdalen College, 19 year old Elly Nowell decided to produce a mock up of the rejection letter she received in which she outlined the reasons why she was withdrawing her application.
Seemingly ignoring the concept that it isn't possible to withdraw from something you are no longer eligible for, the article has received some appreciative smatterings on Twitter, congratulating this girl on her "turning the tables" on silly old Oxbridge. But while I do have some sympathy with the teenager, the attitude in the letter is just plain silly.
Taking the obvious first, the complaints about the university favouring both public school and white students are hopelessly unsubstantiated. The public school argument is just a dull cliche thrown out by state school students (of which I was one) when they do not receive the news they expect. The fact that it was so easily rebutted in just one statement from the college says enough for that.
Following on, some wild claims from individuals such as David Lammy have created an unrealistic hype surrounding the race debate in admissions. Admittedly, Oxford has been attacked more than Cambridge for this, but statistics have also shown that the proportion of ethnic minority students admitted is in fact disproportionately high.
As far as arguments go then, verging on meagre to useless. Despite this, I can empathise with the feelings of the girl. I had some pretty shocking initial interviews and was rejected at first, and know plenty of friends who applied to Oxbridge and didn't get in. Applying to such universities, you're not that used to anybody questioning your academic capability. To be thrust into the mystery of the interview process was daunting and challenging, and can be quite upsetting.
In this respect the anger is totally acceptable, and happens to a lot of people. Most don't choose to vent their feelings in such an extravagant and creative manner, but I can live with that. What I can't abide by is the retort that is common among some of the unlucky ones rejected.
In the article, she said:
"It was while I was at interview that I finally noticed that subjecting myself to the judgement of an institution which I fundamentally disagreed with was bizarre."
In other words, she didn't want to go there anyway. Whichever way you look at the letter, she does not come across well. The elitism surrounding Oxbridge is hardly hidden - it advertises itself as the best. You need a fair amount of luck to get in, and sometimes it just doesn't happen for you. And there is no shame in aiming that high and not getting in.
It is the same as any other peak. You can't imagine Ricky Ponting writing a letter to the MCC after the 2005 Ashes series to say that they didn't actually really want to win such a ridiculous urn; Gordon Brown didn't laugh away defeat in the election. To pretend after the event detracts from the original effort.
If I am less cynical and take the idea that she actually did think it a joke before interview, there is even less reason to applaud her. With higher education such a contentious issue after the rise in tuition fees, it is hardly intelligent to waste one of your limited choices on a university that you have no intention of going to for a paltry five minutes of notoriety.
The hike in fees up to £9,000 has rightly drawn many critics. However, such celebration of a girl who found herself at an interview process "laughing at how seriously everything was being taken" can only support those who think the fees should be upped in order to cull the system of those who are not right for it.
The letter on its own is not that offensive, other than being a weak argument for an aspiring law student. Perhaps if Ms Nowell had put as much thought into the interviews as she did the spoof rejection letter, she may not have had cause to write one in the first place, but it was at the end of the day a silly riposte.
Ultimately though, the idea contained in the joke - that Oxbridge is "ridiculous" and aloof from the real world, and therefore unimportant - is rife in society, an idea that you only need to read the Guardian's comment section to see countless times. It isn't to say both that some people aren't suited to these universities and that there aren't other excellent choices, but to dismiss Oxbridge is a joke in itself.
Follow Simon Bajkowski on Twitter: www.twitter.com/spbajko