The first time I set eyes on Oxford was on a day in December 1964, when I came up for interview. It was one of those bright clear days we sometimes get in winter, and it drew the honey colour out of the stone buildings and set it against a brilliant blue sky, and I fell in love with the place. What had made me think I could come here? I was the first member of my family to go to university; I was the first pupil from my school, a local comprehensive in north Wales, to go to Oxford. Simple: I thought I could come because tuition was free, and because Merionethshire County Council gave me a grant for my living expenses.
The extraordinary benevolence of those facts now looks like something from a golden age. I am absolutely certain that if things were then as they are now, I would never have done more than dream about coming to Oxford, and the course of my life would have been utterly different. How many of those girls, I wonder, who listened to Michelle Obama in Christ Church during the presidential state visit, how many of them will still feel that Oxford is a place where they belong when they contemplate the amount it will cost them and the burden they will carry as a result?