26 Oct 2015
What is pooling?
Suppose college X can only take in 8 mathematicians and college Y can also only take in 8 mathematicians. A strong applicant (regarded as strong enough to be admitted) was interviewed in colleges X and Y but there were 8 stronger applicants than him in both colleges? The pooling system is in place to ensure worthy applicants are given places at the departmental level.
How does pooling work?
For many courses at Oxford, (not all courses or colleges partake in pooling), applicants will be graded by the two colleges they were interviewed in. These assessment grades are sent to the department and ranked in the order of performance. In fact, because of this, the top performance applicants can be additionally notified after the acceptance notification that they’ve performed within the top 10 out of the whole applicants.
Let’s say the annual intake number is 200, the top 200 applicants will be given offers. Hypothetically speaking, if the 200th applicant wasn’t picked by either of his/her two interviewed colleges because although good the two colleges had an unusually high number of competitive applicants, he/she will be pooled to a 3rd college, i.e. given another chance to be interviewed at another college and hopefully liked by the tutor and admitted.
Open offer vs pooling
There's one thing similar to pooling that I would like to highlight which is the open offer scheme. So every year some candidates do not make their conditional offer and there will be empty spaces right? Open offer exists to fill these gaps. So as a similar scheme to pooling system (to give quality candidates a chance to be accepted to the university), the few candidates who passed the 'faculty pass line' but couldn't receive an offer from a college because all colleges are full become the open offer holders. Let's say Worcester Physics participates in the open offer scheme. In addition to the 6 offers given to Physics applicants that they interviewed, there may be 1 open offer to a candidate who was not interviewed at Worcester. In the case where 1 out of the 6 Worcester Physics offer holders don't make his/her conditional offer, the open offer holder (provided he/she meets the conditional offer) will join Worcester as the 6th person. However, in the case where 6 out of the 6 candidates make their conditional offer, the open offer holder will be allocated to another college where one or more of their offer holders didn't meet their conditional offers. In this way, open offer holders are guaranteed a place at the university.
Which colleges do pooling and open offer scheme?
Just to put this concept in place, Magdalene English and St Catherine's Computer Sciences are two college/subjects don't do pooling. However, whether a college does pooling or open offer scheme really depends on the subject and the year of your application and this info doesn't seem to be available to applicants unfortunately.