Exposed: Oxford’s private school only scholarships

College News News

Image Credit: Tom Gould

Two Oxford colleges still maintain scholarships reserved for former students of certain private schools.

Wadham’s Peter Wright Scholarship is open to “any graduate student or applicant who is a former student of Manchester Grammar School”, according to the College’s website. The scholarship covers course fees up to a maximum of £10,000, plus living expenses of £8000 or £3206, depending on whether the scholar has secured funding from other sources.

Despite what its name suggests, Manchester Grammar School (MGS) is in fact the largest independent boy’s day school in the United Kingdom, where fees for the year 2018/19 are £12,570, or £4,190 per term. Thirty two MGS students secured places for undergraduate study at Oxford and Cambridge across a variety of subjects for the 2018 entry.

When Wadham was approached by The Oxford Student about the scholarship, a spokesperson replied that “the terms of the Peter Wright Scholarship are under review” but provided no other comment. Paula Kaanders, the Wadham MCR President, confirmed to The Oxford Student “we have been in discussions with college about the application criteria of this scholarship, but cannot comment further until a decision has been reached”.

Brasenose maintains a similar scholarship, the Senior Fiddian, which is reserved for former students of Monmouth Boys’ School or Haberdashers Aske Girls’ School, and offers up to £3000 for undergraduate and graduate students.

The scholarship is not listed on the Brasenose website but it can be found on a searchable list of graduate scholarships available on the University’s website. A spokesperson from Brasenose confirmed to The Oxford Student that the scholarship is still offered, explaining: “These awards are funded by a legacy left to the College in 1948 by William Fiddian who matriculated at the end of the 19th century.

“The restriction to pupils of particular school is clearly a historical anomaly but remains legally binding. The College is considering its options for seeking legal permission to widen the terms of this fund, to fit better with the College’s strategy to widen participation and and access to an Oxford education. To do this it must continue to advertise the award. 

“The College already invests heavily in outreach, and provides a range of bursaries for undergraduates and graduates students. These include the Oxford Bursary scheme for undergraduates, support for Target Oxbridge, schemes to support care experienced students, and a new commitment to provide bursaries to graduates who, as undergraduates, qualified for the highest levels of Oxford Bursary or Moritz-Heymans awards, or who are drawn from similar backgrounds.”

Monmouth School, based in Monmouth, Wales, charges £15,816 for day fees and £29,982 for full boarding fees. Monmouth School for Girls charges £14,778 for day fees and £28,932 for full boarding fees. 

Graduate funding, particularly for masters course, is very difficult to source for most, and postgraduate study is often made impossible by the fact that graduate students cannot claim maintenance loans. A one off postgraduate loan of £10,609 can be borrowed from the government, but this is not enough to cover the cost of most taught masters courses in Oxford. An MSt in History, for instance, costs £10,732 and offer holders must submit a financial declaration proving they have the money to cover tuition and maintenance costs. 

Last week Stormzy claimed that he had approached Oxford with a proposal for a scholarship for black students but was rejected. The university denies this. 

Oxford SU VP for Access and Academic Affairs, Lucas Bertholdi-Saad, told The Oxford Student: “I have referenced these scholarships in the discussion around Stormzy’s scholarship offer. Private school scholarships like these make us wonder whether the Colleges and University are committed to changing the access situation.”