Academics at Oxford University want to scrap a £75 fee required to apply for postgraduate courses – arguing it is an “elitist” financial barrier.
The fee is not refundable – and an internal email suggests Oxford receives £2m from applications per year, mostly from those who have been rejected.
There are complaints the fee is “discriminatory” and putting off “excellent candidates”.
But Oxford says a “growing number” of universities charge an application fee.
Michael Cassidy, of the university’s department of earth sciences, said charging a fee for even applying reinforced an image of being “elitist and arrogant”.
The campaign to stop Oxford’s levying of application fees – separate from tuition fees – has been revealed by a higher education publication, Research Professional News.
Next month, the university’s “congregation”, its sovereign body, will hear a resolution calling for a phasing out of application fees for graduate courses, such as masters or doctorate studies.
Staff at the university will say the fee “undermines Oxford’s efforts to encourage diversity” and that there is “good evidence” that talented students are being deterred from trying to get a place.
There are some fee waivers for disadvantaged applicants – but those campaigning against the fees say that they “act as a barrier” to trying to widen access to Oxford.
“This is something that came up most years where we’d have applicants directly emailing us saying the fee was a barrier,” professor of astrophysics Chris Lintott told Research Professional News.
He said students would say: “Well, I’m not applying there because they charge £75.”
But an internal university email appears to warn that the fee is worth £2m per year and abolishing it would mean cutting services or finding the money from other departmental budgets.
Oxford says more universities are charging a fee at the point of applying for postgraduate courses.
Cambridge, University College London, Warwick and King’s College London are among those who charge for applying.
For undergraduate applications, entry is by the Ucas system, with the £25 fee usually paid through a school or college.
A spokeswoman for Oxford University said the fee for graduate applications helped to cover the cost of processing admissions from 30,000 applicants per year.
But she said abolishing the fee was “not in line with current university policy, which is to offer increasing levels of waivers to the current fee”.
“Abolishing the fee entirely is likely to have significant implications for our graduate admissions and access activities. However, we look forward to the issue being discussed among the wider university community.”