Oxford dons are biased in favour of female applicants, especially if they come from independent schools, according to a study by four eminent academics.
One of them, A. H. Halsey, emeritus professor of sociology at Oxford, said: “I fear that the male lust hypothesis is part of the explanation.”
The four compared the fates of more than 2,000 pupils from state and independent schools who achieved at least three As at A-level and applied to read medicine at Oxford between 1994 and 2001.
In each year, girls who were educated at independent schools had the best chance of being offered a place, and boys who went to state schools had the worst.
Similarly, girls from state schools had a better chance of being accepted than boys who went to independent schools.
Another analysis of pupils who applied to read physics found that girls from independent schools were by far the most likely to be offered a place, followed by boys from independent schools.
By contrast, boys and girls who applied to read modern languages and law stood a very similar chance of being accepted.
The study, published by the Oxford Magazine, concluded with a “working hypothesis”.
It said: “Law and modern languages differ from physics and medicine in having a larger number of female faculty members, and a greater female input into the admissions exercise, the interview in particular: an increase in the sexual balance amongst the interviewers leads to an increase in the sexual balance in the decisions.”
Another of the researchers, who asked not to be identified, said: “The explanation is simple: male interviewers like female applicants.”
The study also showed that the bias in admissions to medicine had been accompanied by a sharp rise in the number of girls applying and a fall in the number of boys.