Yinan Wang, the 14-year-old Chinese boy who clinched a place at Oxford University last week, will be the last child prodigy to study there under reforms being considered by admissions tutors.
Despite an almost perennial flurry of headlines on children barely in their teens being offered places, the university is considering an unprecedented blanket rule on minimum ages for undergraduates.
‘The admissions executive is in discussions around whether we should introduction a minimum age of 17 for undergraduates,’ confirmed Ruth Collier, a spokesperson for admissions to Oxford. ‘We have been pushed to consider it, not because of concerns about whether it is psychologically healthy for children to study here, but because of child protection laws which have come into play this year for the first time.’
Children can no longer live in student accommodation, because the university could not carry out a criminal record check on every other undergraduate sharing the same premises.
I find these knock-on effects of “background check everyone” laws to be quite troubling. They drive good people away from jobs that require such checks, and they prevent good people from doing things, like going to college early. These costs of liberty are hard to quantify. What’s the cost of a country’s brightest being forced to spend four years in high school, rather than getting one of the best educations available?