The University said this week that it will discourage colleges from taking part in a new reality TV project called This is Oxford.
The show is the brainchild of Siobhan Bentley, a postgraduate student at the University of Bournemouth. Bentley stated that the show will take on “a similar format to The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea” and promises “an exclusive and access all areas pass into the lives of the Oxford elite”.
A University spokesperson said: “It’s fair to say the press office wouldn’t be particularly supportive of the idea and if individual colleges, departments or students came to us for advice we wouldn’t recommend it as a good use of their time. Based on similar programmes it seems unlikely that it would be a serious or balanced look at student life here at Oxford.”
A Wadham undergraduate stated: “‘Oxford Elite’ definitely makes it sound as if the program will focus on the upper class clichés surrounding the Uni and that obviously severely misrepresents lots of the colleges, especially somewhere like Wadham with a proud history of liberalism.”
Similar fears of misrepresentation were voiced by one New College student who said: “We didn’t look great on Masterchef; can you imagine what these guys will do to us?”
Although the show’s tagline promises that it will introduce us to “some of biggest and most influential people at Oxford who well and truly rule the town”, Bentley maintains that the show “is not aimed to perpetuate the ‘Bullingdon Club’ image of Oxford”.
However, Alex Bulfin, OUSU’s VP for Access and Academic Affairs said: “From an access perspective, programmes of this nature have a worrying potential to do serious, lasting damage to Oxford’s reputation and the perceptions of prospective students… The descriptions of this programme currently being circulated… certainly suggest to me that the intention is not to show a balanced, honest and positive portrayal of Oxford life but to hone in on anything that can be construed as elitist, bizarre or sensational.”
“I would encourage Oxford students to ignore … attempts to recruit students for this show in recognition of the significant risk posed to our outreach work, and to consider the impact on their own future plans too: the portraits of individuals in Made in Chelsea and similar programmes are hardly flattering.”
However, one student commenting on the two shows said: “Inevitably, as with all reality TV they’re littered with gross caricatures [but] they are kind of fun”. Another student put his views on such shows more bluntly, describing them as “just rich people just being twats”.