Top academic universities including Cambridge and Oxford are worst for social inclusion

Oxford (pictured), Cambridge and St Andrews are the worst universities for social diversity, despite being the academic top three in Britain (Picture: Getty)

They may be the top three universities in Britain when it comes to academic standards, but Cambridge, Oxford and St Andrews are the worst for social diversity, data has shown.

For the first time, The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide includes a table of social diversity, revealing that the majority of Russell Group institutions are among the least socially inclusive universities in Britain.

They take up 16 of the bottom 20 places in the new ranking, with Oxford, Cambridge and St Andrews the worst.

Conversely, the university second last in the academic ranking – London Metropolitan – is second highest for social inclusion.

London Metropolitan and Glyndwr both admit more than 96% of their students from non-grammar state schools but they both also have high dropout rates and poor graduate employment levels, the Times said.

London Metropolitan University, which came second last in the academic ranking is second highest for social inclusion (Picture: PA)

The guide’s editor Alastair McCall said: “For all their policies that exist in each and every one of them to boost admissions from disadvantaged groups, the evidence of our new table at the very least is that the majority of Russell Group institutions are a long way off achieving true diversity in their student intake.”

He said questions remain for those at the top of the social inclusion rankings.

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He said: “Admitting a diverse range of students should not be a licence to fail in other areas, but too many of the institutions at the top of this ranking have among the highest dropout rates and the lowest levels of graduate employment.”

De Montfort University, which came 16th in the new table and 65th in the academic rankings, has been named the first ever university of the year for social inclusion.

The university’s achievements show it is possible to have both social diversity and academic success, Mr McCall said.

“It was the clear winner of our inaugural university of the year for social inclusion award for its policies to encourage a diverse student population on campus and then demanding that they go on to achieve as well as is expected of students drawn from more privileged backgrounds,” he said.

“It provides a template that many other higher education institutions would do well to follow.”

Loughborough University scooped the university of the year title for the second time, finishing fifth in this year’s main rankings.

The University of Nottingham was named sports university of the year and international university of the year, coming 16th overall.