Daily Mail (London), December 7, 2010
Oxford and Cambridge are fending off allegations of racial exclusion today after it was revealed that 21 of their colleges made no offers to black students last year.
The worst offender is Oxford college, Merton, which has admitted no black students in the last five years and just one in the last decade.
With the controversial Commons vote on tuition fees to take place on Thursday, seeking to charge students up to £9,000 per year, there are fresh fears that students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be squeezed out.
However, the data reveals that it as already a serious problem at Oxford and Cambridge, which are expected to charge the maximum fees.
Requests made under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act by the Labour MP David Lammy also revealed that Oxford’s social profile is 89 per cent upper and middle-class, while the figure is 87.6 per cent at Cambridge.
The national average at British universities is 64.5 per cent, according to the admissions body Ucas.
A lack of racial diversity also applies to staff, with the FOI data also showing that of more than 1,500 academic and lab staff at Cambridge, none are black, although 34 are of British Asian origin.
The latest figures on undergraduate admissions from Oxford, published on its website, shows that there was no shortage of black candidates–with 35 applications–but just one student of black Caribbean descent was accepted.
Cambridge accepted six black Caribbean undergraduates for the academic year beginning autumn 2009.
Eleven Oxford colleges and 10 Cambridge colleges made no offers to black students that year.
The picture is slightly different when it comes to students from other backgrounds with 77 students of Indian descent accepted.
However, that still represents a low acceptance percentage because the number came from 466 applications.
Though both universities have programmes to encourage applications from black and working-class backgrounds,the figures reveal white students had higher success rates than black applicants at every Cambridge college except one.
At St Catharine’s, black candidates have had a 38 per cent success rate, compared with 30 per cent for white students.
The universities argue that they have a narrow pool from which to draw candidates and that black candidates are more likely to apply to elite universities, resulting in the low acceptance rate.
A spokesman for Oxford said: ‘Black students apply disproportionately for the most oversubscribed subjects, contributing to a lower than average success rate for the group as a whole.’