Analysis done by The Oxford Student has shown that the strongest applicants overwhelmingly apply to Worcester, Brasenose, Magdalen, Merton and New, whilst St Hilda’s, St Hugh’s, St Peter’s and Mansfield had the weakest applicants choose to apply to their respective colleges.
St Hilda’s, who received the lowest quality applicants between 2011 and 2013, concurred that the standard of the applicants that they considered for places from first preferences were generally weak, but pointed out that they received a “good number” of “high quality” open applications. The college also received the lowest number of applicants in that period, at just 496. In comparison, Worcester, who had the highest number of applicants, viewed 2699.
The University measures the strength of each college’s applicant pool by the percentage of applicants that are rejected by the particular college, but still go on to take up a place at another college. This indicates the number of Oxford-standard applicants in each college’s pool of application.
70 percent of the St Hilda’s cohort was “imported” from students who applied to other colleges.
The college said that the students, despite Hilda’s not having been their first preference “settle in quickly and feel the usual strong attachment to St Hilda’s that other Oxford undergraduates feel to their respective colleges”.
The college “encourages attachment to St Hilda’s” through a number of schemes, including a College Welcome Day held for all offer-holders.
They have also recently appointed a new full-time “Outreach Officer” to increase the number of applications the college receives.
They put much of their low acceptance rate, at just 16 percent into the college, down to rigorous enforcement of the conditions of offers – specifically demanding that students meet their required grades.
Somerville and St Peter’s likewise have high import rates, both taking almost half their students from applications to other colleges each year.
St Peter’s said that the students they ultimately received were “tremendous” and “are provided with an outstanding educational experience in the college”.
“Those who may first have applied to other colleges are unlikely to dwell on the fact for very long”, a spokesperson said.
Somerville commented that they had wished for “people to be more aware of the excellent educational experience they would enjoy following a successful application to the College”.
Somerville receives the second lowest number of applicants after St Hilda’s, at just 592.
The College does, however, have the highest acceptance rate into the university for its applicants, at 27 percent.
The College Communications Officer remarked that “If there are lessons to draw here, it is that those who do choose Somerville are of an exceptionally high calibre, but that we must work even harder to raise our profile among potential Oxford applicants.”
Around 25 percent of successful applicants are made offers from colleges to which they did not directly apply.
Other colleges with high percentages of imports include St Hugh’s (52%), Mansfield (48%) and Teddy Hall (42%).
This compares with popular colleges like Brasenose, Magdalen and Worcester, who import between 6 and 8 percent of their cohort.
Disparities between applications to popular and unpopular colleges are as much as five and a half times.
St John’s proved a very popular college, receiving 2006 applicants over the period.
Flora Sheldon, the JCR Access and Equal Opportunities Officer, said that the “wealth of the college” played a role in attracting applicants. “From free printing, to cheap accommodation, to £3.60 formal hall – the college are generous with their financial support.”
“There is also excellent welfare support at John’s, forward thinking tutors, beautiful gardens, a large body of JCR places, and we are an excellent location in town”, she said.
There were also 3057 open applicants to the university.
Worcester College warned these figures needed to be treated cautiously, saying “prospective admissions would not be well served by playing a numbers game at admissions time”.
Another University official said that “Oxford’s method of allowing open applications and importing and exporting applicants between colleges ensures that college choice shouldn’t affect applicants’ chances of an offer.”
The figures do not consider different subject mixes offered by colleges.