At Oxford University in England, admissions criteria are clear. As the admissions director there told me recently, what matters is an applicant’s potential to succeed in the subject she wants to study. A student wanting to study mathematics, say, must nail the math entrance exam, and in an interview show the potential to be an outstanding mathematician. Whether or not she is a concert violinist, the first in her family to go on to higher education, or the only female applicant in mathematics is irrelevant.

Oxford students believe in this system. They feel that the university is not responsible for making British society equal. But that isn’t how things have worked in the United States for nearly 100 years — and perhaps not ever.

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