“I have to express amusement”: Tompkins bemused by CUSU’s War on Table

We spoke to Peter Tompkins of Tompkins Table fame.

tompkins table

In the wake of CUSU Council’s Monday meeting, we take you through the reactions to CUSU’s shock proposal to revolt against the 34-year-old bourgeois tradition and wage war on the Class (List) Enemy:

  • Tompkins “surprised” by all the fuss
  • University launches consultation this week on publication of class lists
  • Students point out Priscilla’s back-flip on rankings

Tompkins, who created the Tompkins Table in 1981 for “a bit of fun”, said he had “to express amusement at the seriousness of the debate”.

The Table, which he sent off to a newspaper and has been a staple of Oxbridge reporting ever since, has come under attack by CUSU and CUSU Council.

CUSU’s President told students on Monday evening to “come and share their opinion” in an email that is time-stamped 5.56 pm, but which some students only received at 10 pm, three hours after the meeting began. She believes that the Tompkins Table “shames” students at colleges performing worse in the Tompkins Table and doesn’t recognise that “we’re all great”.

We all need a bit of affirmation from the Central Committee sometimes.

The table caused a bit of a stir when he first started it, he said. But he was “encouraged by those who did and didn’t like it”. Every year he’d put in the hours to compile the Table manually and even now, with computers, it is still “a bit of work”.

Does he think the Table has a role to play? It encourages people to “look at recruitment” and helps students in choosing where to apply.

He also thinks it helps us single out and identify colleges who are getting it right. He mentioned Trinity, whose recent performance is “statistically remarkable” and Magdalene, which in the 2015 Table, jumped up eight places.

In tragic news for the integrity of The Tab’s poll, he admitted that he voted in it himself.


Only 22.21% of you share CUSU’s revolutionary zeal.

On the publication of class lists, he didn’t have much to say: “I don’t have a view.”

The University, in a statement it sent The Tab, said that  a “consultation was launched this week and will conclude by the end of the year”.

“In the light of the views expressed, the matter will be reconsidered by the committees next Term. The consultation will also include the possible implications for both Tables, and invite comment.”

In another development, students have pointed out that CUSU’s President campaigned on a promise to introduce college “welfare rankings”. These would “incentivise colleges to improve, provide examples of better practice and offer crucial information for students on application”.

At CUSU Council, she reported on a consultation in which it was suggested that the welfare ranking system would not work. Welfare rankings are being replaced by a “star system”, in  a move that suggests that while all colleges are equal, some colleges are still  more equal than others.

The Tab hopes that if they won’t let us have the Tompkins Table, we can at least have a slightly less offensive star system as a consolation prize.