Oxford University faces flak over failure to improve diversity among students, admits it has 'more work to do'

Oxford University has come under fire after it published its first annual admissions report, which revealed the composition of its undergraduate student body.

FP Staff May 26, 2018 19:33:31 IST
Oxford University faces flak over failure to improve diversity among students, admits it has 'more work to do'

Oxford University has come under fire after it published its first annual admissions report, which revealed the composition of its undergraduate student body. The admission statistics are available on the basis of domicile, nation and region, disadvantage, school type, gender, ethnicity and disability.

Last year, 3,270 new students — from an applicant pile of 19,938 — enrolled at Oxford University. Of those new students, only 1.9 percent identified as black Britons — up from 1.1 percent in 2013, according to The Washington Post. Overall, 17.9 percent of its new students last year were from a black and minority ethnic background — up from 13.9 percent in 2013, the report added.

Oxford University faces flak over failure to improve diversity among students admits it has more work to do

File image of Corpus Christi College. Getty images

In a breakdown of undergraduate admissions to the 29 individual colleges of Oxford, eight failed to admit a single black Briton in one or more of the years from 2015 to 2017, The New York Times said in a report.

One college, Corpus Christi, admitted one black student resident in the UK in its 2015-2017 intakes. Balliol college admitted two black students over the same period despite receiving 46 applications.

Overall, white British applicants were twice as likely to be admitted to undergraduate courses as their black British peers – 24 percent of the former gained entry and 12 percent of the latter.

The university told the BBC that it was "not getting the right number of black people with the talent to apply." The university has, however, admitted it "still has more work to do in attracting the most talented students from all backgrounds" and said it recognises the report shows it needs to "make more progress".

Director of undergraduate admissions Dr Samina Khan was quoted in the BBC report as saying that she was "pushing hard" on outreach activity to make sure those students felt welcome.

Khan also denied that the variation in admissions by colleges was hampering Oxford's efforts to widen access. "I think the admissions process here does work, it's fair and it's transparent. It’s a strength of our undergraduate admissions," she was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

Labour MP David Lammy, who has previously also criticised Oxford for its failure to improve the admission statistics said, "little had changed." "The university is clearly happy to see Oxford remain an institution defined by entrenched privilege that is the preserve of wealthy white students from London and the south-east," he was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

Speaking on the Today programme, Lammy said: "The truth is that Oxford is still a bastion of white middle-class southern privilege. That is what it is."

Oxford even had to apologise to Lammy for retweeting a message posted by a student calling him "bitter" for criticising the university over diversity figures. Ceri Thomas, director of public affairs at Oxford, tweeted an apology to Lammy and took responsibility for the retweet.

Broadcaster Robert Peston also responded to the latest report and said he feels ashamed to have gone to Oxford University. He tweeted: "This morning I feel embarrassed to have gone to Oxford University. The statistics on its institutional bias against black (and north eastern) candidates are appalling. Where is the unhedged apology? Where is the credible plan to correct?"

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