Eleanor Harding, Daily Mail, August 22, 2021
An Oxford college has faced criticism over its target to boost the number of ethnic minority students.
Worcester College set an admissions goal of 21 per cent for non-white students in a bid to enhance ‘racial equality’.
Although the target was set in 2019, according to recently released figures, within just a year the ethnic minority intake almost tripled – from 16 students to 42.
As a proportion of the college’s UK fresher intake, this was a jump from 11 per cent to 36 per cent – way above the original goal.
Dr Marchella Ward, an outreach fellow, said the change was achieved through ’empowering’ tutors to ‘more readily recognise diverse potential’.
However, one insider criticised the target, saying it looks ‘awfully like a quota’, adding: ‘I do not see how Worcester can have achieved this spectacular turnaround without using [ethnic minority] status as an explicit plus-factor in admissions decisions.’
An Oxford spokesman said the figure was a ‘target’ rather than a rigid quota and stressed that admissions offers are made ‘solely on academic potential’.
Two years ago, Oxford’s vice chancellor Louise Richardson set a target of giving 25 per cent of places to students from underprivileged postcodes by 2023.
The university also said in its official ‘access and participation plan’ it wants to attract more ethnic minority students.
However, Oxford’s central management has so far stopped short of setting a specific target for admission of racial groups.
In doing so, Worcester will be seen as adopting a more radical approach than the university at large.
Dr Ward’s blog, posted during the most recent admissions cycle, explains the rationale behind the target.
She wrote: ‘Access to Worcester College could be regarded as fair, we decided, if the proportion of BAME students admitted was no lower than the proportion of those who receive AAA+ at A Level who are BAME (around 21 per cent).’
She said that in 2019, ethnic minority applicants had a success rate of just over half that of white students.
‘BAME students were applying in large numbers, but they were less likely to be made offers,’ she added.
‘In order to change this we needed to think seriously about the decisions we were making as admitting tutors.’
Until this month, the college was run by interim provost Professor Kate Tunstall, known for her Left-wing views.
She recently wrote about the murder of George Floyd in Worcester’s annual record – more often reserved for updates on the exploits of sports teams or the academic achievements of students.
She said the killing, as well as the Black Lives Matter movement, ‘shed a glaring light on the intolerable fact that being safe and well is all too often a privilege’.
Professor Tunstall also joined an academic boycott of nearby Oriel College over its decision to keep a statue of the 19th Century Imperialist, Cecil Rhodes.
And she oversaw a plan to replace college prayers with a ‘range of set texts of thanksgiving from any world culture, religious or not’.
The recruitment campaign at Worcester comes after Labour MP David Lammy accused Oxford of having ‘unconscious bias’ against black students.