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Higher suspension rates for state students revealed

Oriental Studies, Archaeology and Anthropology, and Physics and Philosophy had the highest suspension rates

More than twice as many state-educated undergraduates than private schooled students have suspended their studies since 2006, Cherwell can reveal.

Students from the state sector have made up on average 56 per cent of undergraduates since 2006, but 69 per cent of all suspended students, according to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request sent by Cherwell.

The course with the most suspensions has been Oriental studies. Since 2006, 30 per cent of undergraduates in the department have suspended.

Archaeology and Anthropology is the second highest, with a 16 per cent suspension rate, and Physics and Philosophy is third with 14 per cent of students taking a year out – either voluntarily or involuntarily.

Human Sciences, Philosophy and Theology, Law, and Material Science also had high rates of suspensions, which were all over 12 per cent.

The course with lowest number of suspensions was Earth Science, with only one student out of the 349 undergraduates since 2006 having put their education on hold for a year.

Psychology, Philosophy and Linguistics (PPL), Geography, Medicine, History, Computer Science and Maths were the other subjects with low suspension rates, which were all under seven per cent.

Over 2200 undergraduates from the public sector and 1010 undergraduates from the private sector suspended their course since 2006.

Kir West-Hunter, St Anne’s equality representative, told Cherwell: “Let’s be honest – Oxford at times seems like a continuation of private school. The buildings effectively look the same, if you were a boarding student you’ve already experienced time away from home and the type of education a private school student received has, more often than not, prepared them for a degree at Oxbridge.”

Oluwatobi Olaitan, equalities officer for Exeter College, told Cherwell: “This statistic highlights once again the disparities in our society with respects to how our education system simply doesn’t provide equal opportunities to those from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds in comparison to their counterparts.

“More work has to be done in terms of providing emotional and financial support to level the playing fields and to allow all to achieve their true potentials.”

The Equal Opportunities rep. at Hertford, Grace Davis, said: “The disproportionate number of state school students rusticating just goes to show how much of an impact schooling backgrounds can have on the difficulty of adjusting to life at Oxford.”

A spokesperson for Oxford SU told Cherwell: “We believe that access does not stop at the admissions process, and that the collegiate University needs to work harder to improve support for applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds and underrepresented groups while they are here.”

One Oriental studies first year student suggested that the difficulty of the course could be a factor in its very high number of suspensions: “It’s definitely a very high intensity course with many contact hours, because a lot of time is spent on language and learning, the time we have alone to finish essays like other students is much less.”

She added: “I would maybe wonder that those who have rusticated under Oriental Studies may have struggled with the breadth of the course?

“We are often having to finish many different types of tasks at once – and so you’re not just focusing on one job after the other.”

Undergraduates studying Archaeology and Anthropology and Physics and Philosophy said
the dual nature of the courses could have influenced students to suspend their studies.

A second-year arch and anth student told Cherwell: ”I think the course is notably disorganised.

“Unlike other courses that have all of their lectures filmed or at least the lecture slides online, in this course it’s at the lecturer’s discretion whether or not they want it up, so it’s incredibly easy to fall behind and feel like you can’t really get it back – and lectures are compulsory and you need the material for finals.

“The two departments also don’t really communicate that well and there’s very little support in general.”

A second-year student who switched in their first year from PhysPhil to Music told Cherwell last term: “One of the major things was that I found that not all, but a lot of my tutors were not supportive and made me feel really stupid.

“One of my tutors told me to ‘treat problem sheets as if it was a life or death situation’.

A University spokesperson told Cherwell: “This data really can’t be interpreted meaningfully in an aggregated form, at this scale. Every case is different, so Cherwell can’t really draw any useful conclusions.

“The range of reasons for suspension of study is extremely broad. Suspension can relate to academic progress, financial circumstances, personal health, developments within families, and proposals to break study for countless other situations.

“In all cases undergraduates at Oxford will have been be in very close liaison with their college and will have enjoyed high levels of support.

“Since we have significantly more students from non-fee-paying schools the different figures are to be expected.

“It should also be noted these numbers do not relate solely to ‘disciplinary’ cases, which are unusual and infrequent. Most of the cases captured in these numbers will have been voluntary, and mutually agreed, rather than disciplinary.”

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