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Facebook checks for Cambridge applicants

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Somewhat behind the rush, it seems that at least some Oxbridge academics are getting wise to the Facebook phenomenon.

The Guardian reports today that Dr Richard Barnes, admissions tutor at Cambridge's Emmanuel College, recently admitted as much.

"This has been the year in which I joined Facebook," commented Barnes, speaking of 2007.

"I have to confess that I actually joined to see what I was missing and also to check up (discreetly) on applicants for a college position. I had been alerted to the value of this by some of our members [former students] in the City."

It wasn't clear what kind of Facebook profile would impress Barnes, or what impact a failure to sign up with the networking site might have on an applicant's chances at Emmanuel College.

University spokespersons said that the comment was a mere throwaway line and that the only things considered in the applications process were interview performance, exam results and written submissions required from every candidate.

Academics at Cambridge's aspiring rival, the perfectly acceptable minor university at Oxford (which moulded the character of the young Rupert Murdoch among others), offered mixed opinions on admission by Facebook.

According to the Guardian, unidentified Oxford dons said the practice was "intrusive and most unreasonable" and "unacceptable in the case of admissions".

We're guessing that at least a few also said something along the lines of "Eh? Facebook? What's that? Bloody interweb nonsense I suppose, be off with you."

However, another of the Graun's informants offered the reasonable view that anyone who deliberately posts detrimental information about themselves on the web in this context is probably too stupid for a place at university, saying:

"It's fair to check up on applicants in this way. Facebook is public domain material."

Read the Guardian writeup here. ®

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