One of the aspects of the Oxford interview process that I feel moved to comment on is the use of a tutor's office in their college as the venue for the interview. Whilst this may seem a rather odd thing to make an observation on, particularly given my own preference for an office where every available space is covered with books or paper, I have been quietly amused by how the venues for the three sets of interviews to date have conformed exactly to my vision of what that particular subject discipline conjures up.
The interviews for English were conducted in an environment of comfortable clutter. A large office was full of bookshelves stacked high with periodicals and literary volumes. The furniture was well-used, mismatched and, probably most revealing, there was no table separating the interviewers from the interviewees.
Modern languages occupied a light, airy office, with sunlight streaming through the wide windows, illuminating the darkest recesses of the room. The furniture was modern, neat and chic, with primary colours very much in evidence. Whilst there was a table, it had a functional role - it allowed the candidates to lay out their notes on the texts they had to comment on, whilst the interviewers had all their information on the applicant to hand.
The law interviews (of which more tomorrow) took place in a room that displayed a lot of dark wood - a magnificent desk, bookshelves with bound legal journals, and the candidate and interviewers grouped around a desk. Off to one side there were a set of armchairs and sofas (for tutorial discussions) set beside a fireplace (sadly without a roaring log fire, which really would have completed the picture).
So, apart from confirming some of my own narrow-minded prejudices and stereotypes, what does it mean for a candidate at interview? Only that, as an observer, it felt right that these were the surroundings that the interviews were being conducted in. Rather than being assessed in an anti-septic, artificial, utilitarian space, interviewees probably picked up, either consciously or unconsciously, a sense of the individual styles and preferences of those who, if they receive an offer and come to Oxford, will be their personal tutor for the duration of their course.
It is a significant element of the Oxford educational "experience" that sets the place apart from almost every other University in the country. Given how important it is that candidates make the correct choice for their future success and happiness, long may the world of the overstuffed armchair and framed artistic poster be a feature of the Oxford interview.