Diversity is a bigger issue than ever at Oxford and Cambridge universities, with the vast majority of students coming from a privileged minority in the South of England, new analysis has revealed.
Former Higher Education Minister David Lammy MP is calling for change after his second Freedom of Information request to every Oxbridge college revealed “a social apartheid”.
Seven years since Lammy first requested this information he concluded: “If anything, things have got worse.”
His latest request revealed that the proportion of offers that Oxford and Cambridge made to applicants from the top two social classes – those whose parents work as doctors, barristers, senior managers and so on – increased from 79 per cent in 2010 to 82 per cent and 81 per cent respectively in 2015.
– Cambridge made more offers (2,953) to applicants from four Home Counties (Hertfordshire, Surrey, Kent, Oxfordshire) than the whole of the North of England (2,619) from 2010-2015.
– Oxford made more offers (2,812) to applicants from five Home Counties (Surrey, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire, Kent, Buckinghamshire) than the whole of the North of England (2.619) during the same period.
– Almost half of Oxbridge students (48 per cent) are from London and the South East.
– Between 2010-2015, 13 Oxford colleges failed to make a single offer to a black A level applicant.
– Between 2010-2015, an average of a quarter of Cambridge colleges made no offers to black British applicants.
The Labour MP for Tottenham slammed the colleges as “fiefdoms of entrenched privilege”.
He said: “Overall, the picture painted by this data is of two institutions that overwhelmingly draw their students from a privileged minority in the South of England and are complacent at best about taking steps to widen participation and access. If anything things have got worse since the first time I requested this data.
“The Oxbridge geographic and regional divide is shocking. At a time when London and the South East are more dominant than at any other point in our history, Oxbridge are failing to live up to their responsibilities as national universities.
“Oxbridge takes over £800 million a year from the taxpayer – paid for by people in every city, town and village. Whole swathes of the country – especially our seaside towns and the ‘left behind’ former industrial heartlands across the North and the Midlands are basically invisible.”
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He added: “573 students on free school meals and 3,000 students from disadvantaged backgrounds get 3 As or better at A Level every year, yet talented working class kids are missing out.
“It is frankly a scandal that Oxbridge are able to get away with this whilst taking £800 million from the taxpayer each year. If they can’t address this then there is no reason why taxpayers from every city, town and village in the country should continue to foot the bill.”
Lammy says that the only way to eradicate this “deep-rooted elitism” is by centralising the admissions process, introducing foundation year programmes to target and support applicants from under-represented areas and weighting applications from students from under-performing schools.
He is also calling for Oxbridge to contact talented students directly to encourage them to apply.
Lammy concluded: “Whilst some individual colleges and tutors are taking steps to improve access, in reality many Oxbridge colleges are still fiefdoms of entrenched privilege, the last bastions of the old school tie, with admission dependent on highly subjective interviews and the whims of academics recruiting in their own image.
“It is clear that many colleges will not change left to their own devices, so it is time to move away from an autonomous collegiate system that prevents any real progress and centralise the admissions process.”