Investigators claim that Oxbridge and other top UK universities are operating a massive, illegal surveillance dragnet aimed at students/alumni and their friends and families


Originally published at:


Hmm, while the daily mail tends to be severely slanted on their better days, and Uni’s, in my experience, have serious ethical troubles so…hey, maybe it’s even worse then what’s being reported?


One: There is no such place as Oxbridge (see headline). Oxford and Cambridge are very distinct. Oxford is still predominantly a finishing school for people wanting to succeed in the UK, a little like the Ena in France. Cambridge is more of a multinational university focussing on science, engineering and business. You wouldn’t call Yale and Harvard “Yarvard”. The UK equivalent of the “Ivy League” would include UCL, Kings, Durham, and St. Andrews at the very least.

Two: I suspect there is truth in this. A lot of us were taken aback when a “Cambridge alumni magazine” appeared - especially as we are not alumni. I don’t know how things stand now but at one time we were simply MAs not in residence, with limited dining rights, ability to use the University Library and so on. I have suspected that for some time the “Alumnus society” has been a cover for fundraising outside the control of the Senate. I also suspect British universities are deeply envious of the vast endowments of places like Harvard.

Whether it is illegal I don’t know. But at least I’m too poor to be bothered by these people!


Is this UK law against estimating alumni net worth part of EU data privacy regulations? I’m pretty sure we don’t have anything like it in the US.


Effective business model, if not an ethical one.


This desperation in grubbing for donations shows that the universities might just have found a downside to the marketisation of higher education catching up to them.
In the past, wealthy alumni felt part of a community who had attended that university, and were willing to help that community out. Now, they’re people who have already paid for their product, and don’t see why a retailer wants donations after the transaction is complete.


sorry to be a blerg, but you ARE being sarcastic, right? Alumni office all across the US engage is just the same practices (all with in the law… I am sure… )


Oxford is also a perfectly normal university (albeit with some horrific property management costs). Which one you see depends which college you go to, who you hang out with… and who Daddy is, of course.

And this particular dragnet is cutting down on my spam levels, so it’s fine by me.


Oxford bears a lot of responsibility for the present political mess of this country, and the political élite mostly go there. The old joke goes that “Oxford graduates want to run the country, Cambridge graduates don’t care who runs the country so long as they have interesting jobs.” I’m biased I admit, but I continue to make the point that “Oxbridge” reinforces a stereotype.


Funnily enough, I was having a conversation recently where it emerged that other Imperial College alumni get spammed, and I wondered why they never bothered me even though I know they have my email address. Mystery solved!


Quite - Oxford offers PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics), Cambridge doesn’t. So we end up with generations of Oxford ‘educated’ politicians who learned a little bit about three subjects rather than having any depth in a particular topic.

These are then supplemented by an unending series of English graduates and those who studied Modern History. Not a mathematician, scientist or engineer amongst them.


I don’t think “dragnet” means what you think it means.


No, it really doesn’t. Certain clubs and societies, perhaps, but not the university in general.


This has been going on for more than a decade at at least one university in Canada. I worked in the “Development Office” and this was definitely happening back then. I’m not sure why anyone is shocked. It’s not like they are going through people’s garbage or doing stakeouts outside their houses. Most of this is public information - where you are working, how much your house cost when you bought it (or what it’s worth today!), etc etc.

I’m not saying it’s a good thing, but this is how Universities make money nowadays. It’s certainly not by public funding of education.


The 1% targeted to donate towards teaching, research and education facilities.

BoingBoing outraged, briefly suspends its customary calls for guillotines.


Qui bono? London is currently paying a lot to stop housing the European Medicines agency, as well as losing 900 jobs. Something like 35% of UK University funding came from the EU. The current government has no will, and probably no funds to replace it. It is cheaper and easier to make academics and research as unpopular as they can. They cannot do this directly, but the two minutes hate from the Daily Mail does what it can.

I have been ruthlessly tracked and data mined to the extent that I get the Cambridge Alumni Magazine sent to my home address. They almost certainly got that from my college records office. I’m shocked. Wait, no, I’m not. I wish I had some money to give them.


The university in general decided to go down the route of PPE. That’s where the rot really set in.

Check immediate family:
3 Cambridge
1 Oxford
4 other
Yup, can continue to be rude about the car factory.:grinning:


It’s not just universities up to these sorts of tricks:


i think d_r meant the “law against” part…


As @mr_nope_nope says, I was specifically talking about the illegality mentioned in the article. I was wondering if the illegality was something that would vanish post-Brexit.

Although…the practice of sending mass student data out to independent companies for this kind of evaluation would probably be a FERPA violation in the US. Universities in the US do this all either in-house or through quasi-autonomous foundation offices that are nominally connected to the school.

The schools from which I got my degrees contact me pretty regularly asking for money, though they’ve been doing this since I was poor so I don’t know the extent to which they do any financial vetting. Evem the times they’ve had an individual meet me in person to try to persuade me to leave them a bequest, I don’t think the representative had a clear idea of my net worth.