Oxford University under fire for shocking lack of racial diversity

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Moya Crockett
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Oxford University has come in for fierce criticism after it was revealed that almost one in three colleges accepted no black British A-level students in 2015.

The prestigious university released data on its 2015 admission figures this week, the first time it has done so since 2010. This shows that 10 out of 32 Oxford colleges failed to admit a black British pupil on the basis of their A-levels in 2015, with one – Oriel College – only offering one place to a black British student in six years.

Cambridge University has released similar data, showing that six of its colleges did not admit a single black British A-level student in 2015.

Just 1.5% of all offers made by the two universities to A-level students in the UK in 2015 went to black British people.

Neither Oxford nor Cambridge releases their ethnicity data as a matter of course. The Guardian reports that the Labour MP David Lammy filed a freedom of information request for the information in 2016.

But while Cambridge released the data immediately, Oxford dragged its heels, only providing the statistics once the newspaper informed them it was preparing a story on the subject.

david lammy oxford race
Labour MP David Lammy.

Lammy said that the data was evidence that the universities were taking part in “social apartheid”, condemning Oxbridge’s student intake as “utterly unrepresentative of life in modern Britain”.

In a thread on Twitter, Lammy also noted that there is a serious north-south regional divide in Oxbridge admissions.

“Cambridge makes more offers to applicants from each of Oxfordshire, Surrey and Kent than whole of Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool combined,” he said, adding: “Applicants from just a few Home Counties in the South get more Oxbridge offers than the WHOLE of the North of England.”

Lammy, who has been an outspoken advocate for the victims of the Grenfell fire disaster, also offered his suggestions for how to make Oxbridge less white and middle- and upper-class.

“Do more to contact hard to reach, talented, disadvantaged kids,” he said. “Write a letter to every straight-A GCSE/AS/A-level student… Urge them to apply. Invite them to open days. Tell them about the bursaries and grants.”

Lammy also recommended centralising admissions so that individual colleges were not responsible for deciding which students gained entrance, and said Oxbridge should pay more attention to where students had come from when choosing which candidates to accept.

“It is clear that AAA at a state school in an area that doesn’t perform well [in terms of educational achievement] is much better than AAA at Eton,” he said.

A spokesperson for Oxford said that 15.9% of the university’s 2016 undergraduate intake were students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. However, those figures include British Asian students and international students from black and Asian backgrounds, and do not specifically refer to black British students.

However, the spokesperson acknowledged that addressing Oxbridge’s racial and class issues would be “a long journey that requires huge, joined-up effort across society – including from leading universities like Oxford – to address serious inequalities.”

The Oxford Black Alumni network also responded to the revelations on Twitter.

Images: iStock / Rex Features