Racial exclusion at Oxbridge exposed by FOI


9:30 am - December 7th 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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A bleak portrait of racial and social exclusion at Oxford and Cambridge has been shown in official data which shows that more than 20 Oxbridge colleges made no offers to black candidates for undergraduate courses last year, reports the Guardian today.

The university’s admissions data confirms that only one black Briton of Caribbean descent was accepted for undergraduate study at Oxford last year.

One Oxford college, Merton, has admitted no black students in five years – and just three in the last decade.

More worryingly, it reports:

But the FoI data shows white students were more likely to be successful than black applicants at every Cambridge college except St Catharine’s, where black candidates have had a 38% success rate, compared with 30% for white students.

There is also some data on social exclusion.

Figures revealed in requests made under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act by the Labour MP David Lammy also show that Oxford’s social profile is 89% upper- and middle-class, while 87.6% of the Cambridge student body is drawn from the top three socioeconomic groups. The average for British universities is 64.5%, according to the admissions body Ucas.

David Lammy has also written an article for the Guardian on the issue.

His office also sent us the FOI data.

Here are some more details:

There is a huge disparity in the success rates of Black applicants at different Oxford and Cambridge colleges:

• Oxford: 84 applications from Black students to Keble college resulted in 25 acceptances (a success rate of 30%) over 11 years. 64 applications to Jesus College over the same period resulted in just 5 acceptances (a success rate of 8%).

• Cambridge: 13 Black students admitted from 34 applications to St.Catharine’s College (38% success rate) over 7 years. 4 Black students admitted from 45 applications to Christ’s College (9% success rate) and 6 from 67 applicants to Churchill College (9% success rate) over the same period.

• Oxford: Black students can have less than half the chance of a White student (St. Catherine’s and St. Edmund Hall) or the same chance (Keble) over 11 years.

• Cambridge: Black Students can have as much a 1/4 of the success in applying as White students (Robinson), or a better chance than White students (St. Catharine’s) over the course of 7 years.

On applications to both universities:

Cambridge:
• Over the course of 7 years (2003-2009), Hertfordshire students submitted 3,211 applications to Cambridge. Over the same period, Knowsley submitted none, Blaenau Gwent submitted 6, Rochdale submitted 22 and Barnsley 33.

• Even within short geographical distances, there are huge variances between applications levels. The London Borough of Barnet submitted 1239 applications, Hackney just 40.

• The Top 11 LEAs are all South of Birmingham

• The London Borough of Barnet submit more applications per annum than the City of Birmingham.

Oxford:
• Similar to above – Six English counties submit more applications than the whole of Scotland.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


You of course omit the part in Lammy’s article where he says that only 292 black A-level students managed to get AAA – the starting point for entry to Oxbridge.

That is out of a total number of applicants of over 30,000.

Is it that surprising you don’t see huge numbers of black kids at Oxbridge given the small numbers attaining the required level? Compare this with the large numbers of students of Indian and Asian descent (over-represented at Oxbridge on comparison to population).

Selectively using statistics is all well and good, but maybe elitism at what are undoubtably elite academc institutions isn’t the problem, and the level of attainment and quality of government comprehensive schools is.

Complete statistical nonsense and deliberately misreported – look at the comments on the Guardian’s CiF!

Your lot failed to fix the education system during 13 years of power. Pointing the finger at Oxbridge colleges is as futile as pointing the finger at companies.

The problem starts much earlier.

The university’s admissions data confirms that only one black Briton of Caribbean descent was accepted for undergraduate study at Oxford last year.

Personally, I blame the Minister for Universities last year. I wonder who it was. Ah, David Lammy apparently, so presumably his article is a form of apology?

“Similar to above – Six English counties submit more applications than the whole of Scotland.”

Wouldn’t say I’m all that surprised at that stat. Scottish students going to English universities must pay fees. Scottish students going to Scottish universities do not.

@ 2 Stuart

Sunny deliberately distort or misreport something? Never!

3.

You seem to be confused. The writers at Liberal Conspiracy have not been in government…. yet.

5 – In addition to that, whether that stat means anything rather depends on which counties they are. If he’s talking the home counties (Kent, W & E Sussex, Surrey, Hampshire & Berkshire) then the population of these six counties would be rather higher than that of Scotland in any case.

In the whole history of Comment is Free, there can’t have been many articles written on such a flimsy and misleading premise.

5

It’s a tad more complicated than that, altho’ the fees thing certainly doesn’t help.

Historically Scottish students have overwhelmingly attended university in Scotland, chiefly as a result of the differing education systems and examination structures, but also because they often went to their “home” universities, i.e. those in the West tended to go to Glasgow or Strathclyde, those in the East to Edinburgh or Heriot Watt etc (apart from St Andrews which was mostly Oxbridge rejects ;)).

Relatively few Scots (other than those from Public schools doing A Levels rather than Scottish Highers) went to Oxbridge or Southern universities because most wouldn’t accept Scottish Highers for entry, or demanded higher grades than Northern Universities.

When I was at Oxford there were a disproportionate number of Oriental, Asian and white European students. This was at one of the larger more conservative colleges. So forgive me if I raise an eyebrow at the headline.

I think Tyler’s comment at No.1 pretty much says it all.

12. Cynical/Realist?

@10 – you mean from abroad who are being charged whatever for their studies, rather than UK-born/national people who the Uni will not make such huge profits from? They are two different issues.

12 – The Asians and Orientals were UK citizens.

14. Cynical/Realist?

Stading by my last comment (12), I do have to say that a great number of people in this country do have a genuine interest in seeing our institutions be open and accessable to all. We can all argue over whether positive discrimination is a good or bad thing – but this article does seem to pick its statistics very carefully.

My concern with this especially is that this just fuels the fire of those (on all sides of the fence) that are keen to dismiss any moves towards racial equality (or equality in general). Plus, I don’t always have time to follow up on every story I read, so I like to be able to trust a source.

There are undoubted questions to be asked of our whole society on equality issues. And personally I wouldn’t be surprised if Oxbridge does have improvements to make. But by throwing such biased stats at Oxbridge, you give them an easy opportunity to counter with further stats, and so help fog the issue, making solutions further away, not closer.

Yes I think Tyler @1 basically sums it all up.

Black kids in Britain are being failed by the state education system. It’s patently ridiculous to point the finger at Universities, when the die is already well and truly cast.

It would be interesting to compare the figures above with the % of black candidates being accepted into Ivy League colleges in the US?

I don’t see how Tyler can blame the failure of state education, when the majority of oxbridge students come from the private sector.

It would be interesting to compare the figures above with the % of black candidates being accepted into Ivy League colleges in the US?

Only if you find affirmative action or sports scholarships interesting.

16 – why? The United States has a dramatically different demographic profile. The UK is over 90% white, while in the US 35% are from other ethnic groups. You would expect to see a much greater proportion of ethnic minorities in the Ivy League.

@16 Paul

Not just black kids being failed by the state education system if today’s releases on educational attainment from the OECD are anything to go by.

I personally don’t care who goes to Oxbridge (I went there myself), what colour skin they have or what school they went to (in my personal experience, when you get there people really don’t care), but I DO care that the people who go there are the best, not some arbitrary target or quota.

I do feel that a lot of the blame must be laid at the door of the state education system. I don’t think it’s any great surpise more private school kids get into Oxbridge given the better quality education and selective nature of the schools. It would be great if state schools could compete better (some grammar schools more than did so) but they have to do so on merit, not some ideological dogma regarding the grey area of “fairness”.

To get any real idea about these stats it would be useful to know the socio-economic status of black students who are accepted at Oxbridge. I would suggest that class is more signifant than race.

Can someone point out where the supposid racial discrimination is taking place.
Is it at the interview stage when they see that a candidate is black?
Or are they screening out people who’s names don’t fit their racial profile of the ideal Oxbridge student?
Or is this just a poorly titled thread?

If you did a similar survey you might conclude Arsenal FC were racist as they were ”excluding” black fans from watching their football matches.

“I don’t see how Tyler can blame the failure of state education, when the majority of oxbridge students come from the private sector.”

I think that rather answers itself.

Notoriously, Oxbridge entry depends on school leaving exam results and attainment standards in Britain’s maintained schools have been slipping compared with other countries. In today’s news:

UK schools slip down world rankings – OECD study shows that despite comparatively high levels of per-pupil spending, the UK is behind Poland and Norway
http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2010/dec/07/uk-schools-slip-world-rankings

Poorly thought-out headline to this piece. Aside from the CiF piece using very dodgy stats, it’s clearly not true that Oxbridge is institutionally racist if they are letting in Asian and Oriental students at a disproportionately higher rate.

As Jojo says at 21, this is really about class, not race.

Earlier news reports:

“Though white children in general do better than most minorities at school, poor ones come bottom of the league (see chart). Even black Caribbean boys, the subject of any number of initiatives, do better at GCSEs”
http://www.economist.com/world/britain/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14700670

“Government figures show only 15% of white working class boys in England got five good GCSEs including maths and English last year. . . Poorer pupils from Indian and Chinese backgrounds fared much better – with 36% and 52% making that grade respectively.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/7220683.stm

Challenging recent news is that graduating students at universities who came from comprehensive schools tend to get better degrees:

“Comprehensive school pupils are more likely to gain a better university degree than those who were educated privately or at grammar schools, research suggests.

“A study commissioned by the Sutton Trust also suggests comprehensive pupils are likely to do as well as independent or grammar students who have one or two A-level grades higher.”
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ukpress/article/ALeqM5ipzXXBgEQElLrt9LWz1fG5qADlhA?docId=N0406561291305593643A

Sigh.

@Richard

Are you know saying that blacks, Chinese and South East Asians are all the same? So therefore because when you were at Oxford there were a TONNE of SE Asians and East Asians by ethnicity, that this report is therefore futile?

One ethnic minority is all the same? Say if I went to China or Indian, they’d hug me like a long lost Bro because I’m black even though the Chinese are horrendously racist towards blacks? (experienced it, friend was in china on a teacher training year out and saw first hand etc etc) And the Indians? Well correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t the untouchables the darker Indians? Isn’t it supposed to be Northern India better and Suthern India poorer? (again this comes of numerous books, articles, blunt Indian friends etc)

Anyway you don’t need to me to give you examples because the good thing of found about Indians and Chinese is as a blunt culture you don’t get any of the fake rubbish you get here, which is why they ar so often perplexed as to why they are grouped with these darkies when they come to live in Europe. Funny though!

So back to the article at hand, they are talking about black people, not Asians of any kind but people with negroid features and kinky hair. You know those people who’ve been historically enslaved by (Asians as well!)

Yeah? Good, so we’re talking about a completely different culture and diffent history. Which means the way people REACT to them is therefore completely different. This is hardly news mate, what an odd statement you made.

@galen10

Like everyone said it wouldn’t matter greatly because. African Americans have a completely different past to Afro-Carribeans and Africans. Blacks in the UK are not direct descendants from Slaves and so therefore should have less of a stigma about race comparatively then to AA’s, so in a way,you won’t get the same issues of resentment or anger towards either race but I do think one thing you can find form both areas of research is that both don’t let in black people all that much to good schools, which was one of the reasons Moorehouse was designed.

@jojo

Class is very significant but not more so then race. Look, Kate Middletons family are from a poor area in the east end of London-her mum, not even grand parents and her uncle is an Ibizan gangster who tried to sell coke to the News of the world. The girls is posh by no means whatsoever but through her parents relentless hardwork-she was able to go to posh schools and well now is getting married to Prince William.

What do they have socio-economically in common? Nothing apart from race…though he is more anglo then she is.

Now would this be the case with a black young woman? In fact my parents both have several degrees and my grand parents were in govt in Africa, in fact we come form the prince’s favourite country ethnically and so am crudely much nearer to Williams socio-economical status but somehow I don’t envisaged anyone in the Royal Family marrying a black person, despite how wealthy or educated.

I never understand why seemingly intelligent people like to pretend that there is no such thing as racism, well, when there is. I mean I get it ALL the time and my friends also have stories about getting it all the time.

Having gone too good schools and forever been the lone black person, erm, I have had enough comments and reactions towards the colour of my skin.

The issue here is that people just don’t like what is different, race, class, background etc but the thing is that race trumps all because it is the first thing you physically see and therefore react to.

Look I really should not have to be saying this.

Agree about the Lammy comment, they guys a completely tool and corrupt wanker. He was in charge of universities and what exactly did he do when he was in power?

Also not implying that blacks can be prejudiced because of course they can.

Its a human thing. Being a ignorant tool about the race or background does not discriminate when it comes to being an integral part of being human.

So back to the article at hand, they are talking about black people, not Asians of any kind but people with negroid features and kinky hair. You know those people who’ve been historically enslaved by (Asians as well!)

They’re not you know – or at least David Lammy isn’t. He’s talking specifically about British Black Caribbeans. British Black Africans don’t count apparently.

Erm, it’s rather misleading to call this “racial exclusion” exposed at Oxbridge, rather than “almost no black students going to Oxbridge,” which didn’t need a FOI request to “expose,” you could have found that out by going to Oxford/Cambridge and walking around a bit. Alternatively, even our student newspapers have published stats about the numbers of black students getting in, so this was hardly a secret.

The headline implies that the crime of excluding black people is being exposed, with Oxbridge the guilty party, which is not the case, the “excluding” happens long before the black students do (or more pointedly do not) apply to Oxbridge.

Also the stats cited are woefully unrevealing:
“Huge disparities” are to be expected, when you’re dealing with an average of 6 black applicants per year. If you roll two dice only 6 times (or even 6 times 11) it will be unsurprising if you get substantial variations. The stats about the differences in applications from different (poor/rich) areas (with 30 times more coming from some areas) soon reveals the real cause of the low number of black students at Oxbridge.

So Tim Worstall does agree that the existence of tuition fees puts students off universities. Glad we’re clear on that then – I expect he’ll be joining the demos on Thursday.

As for the article – I didn’t actually say anywhere ‘OMG Oxford are racist’ – there is some level of exclusion going on, given the fact that the colleges themselves have vastly different levels of outcomes on entry (by race).

32. Flowerpower

Sunny

– there is some level of exclusion going on, given the fact that the colleges themselves have vastly different levels of outcomes on entry (by race).

The sample sizes are too small to say that.

“So Tim Worstall does agree that the existence of tuition fees puts students off universities. Glad we’re clear on that then ”

Sure: you’ll not find me claiming that people do not respond to incentives after all.

“I expect he’ll be joining the demos on Thursday.”

Assuming you’re running one for yet higher fees?

For too many people go to university these days and some way must be found to discourage them.

18 & 19

Just because the demographic is different, or because we don’t have affirmative action or sports scholarships, doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be learnt by comparing the relative success of black students gaining entry into top rank institutions in the USA and UK (or other countries for that matter).

If the relative % is much higher in the USA for example, why is that?

I agree with the general tenor of the posts above, the fault isn’t with the universities, it lies with the education system generally but also with general social immobility and inequality.

My daughter just started at Cambridge, and of around 150 in her college there are 3 black students, altho’ I don’t know if they are from the UK or not. There are definitely a lot more South and East Asian students.

Tim Rand

“For too many people go to university these days and some way must be found to discourage them.”

HA HA HA

Poor old Timmy, if he is not on here defending the global rich elites you can bet he is on here dreaming up ways to restrict the little people. Tim must stop the peasants from going to University. The sooner they get back up chimneys the better.

36. Flowerpower

Galen 10

If the relative % is much higher in the USA for example, why is that?

Affirmative action and sports scholarships.

Affirmative action is only a problem when it is black people who get the benefit in right wing land.

None of them has a problem about white affirmative action . GW Bush for example only went to Yale because his Dad went there and his Granddad went there. His score of 25% was as low as you can go in the entry test. He deprived a much better student form getting a good education.

But it’s ok if its is Affinitive action for WASPS

“too many people go to university these days and some way must be found to discourage them.”

true, but given we are all agreed that the current education system means rich thick kids do better than clever poor kids, measures to discourage kids would be better off targeting the rich thick kids rather than adding yet another barrier for poor clever kids.

Not quite sure the rich will appreciate that.

39. Flowerpower

The effects of AA are apparent when it is dropped:

After California outlawed the use of any racial classifications in public university admissions, the percentage of black and Hispanic students admitted to the best law schools in the UC system declined precipitously—in spite of these schools’ efforts to recoup minority enrollment by supposedly race-neutral means such as socioeconomic class. At UCLA law school, the percentage of admitted students who are black declined from 10.3 percent to 1.4 percent from 1996 to 2000. Berkeley, despite scrutinizing each application for evidence of “talents that were not identified by test scores or other standardized measures,” suffered a similar decline, from 9 percent to 3.2 percent.

Source: The Harvard Crimson

27 – I was making the point that I couldn’t see evidence of racial discrimination when I was there given the large number of non-white students. Are you suggesting that there are a bunch of evil white racists controlling Oxford admissions who love Asians and Orientals but really have it in for blacks?

Just because the demographic is different, or because we don’t have affirmative action or sports scholarships, doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be learnt by comparing the relative success of black students gaining entry into top rank institutions in the USA and UK (or other countries for that matter).

Except that the category Lammy is using – Black Caribbean – makes up only just over 1% of the UK population. The closest ethnic minority, in terms of proportion of the population, in the US would be Native American/Alaska Natives (just under 1%). How are they getting on at Harvard? It’s not a useful comparison.

Statistics for overall ethnic minority representation at Oxford & Cambridge could be more usefully compared against the US, although Britain is still far more ethnically homogenous.

I don’t think too many people are going to university. You may want to argue that too many people are doing the wrong courses, but that is not the same argument.

One understands that the Timmy Rands of this world want un uneducated work force who will work for his global elite masters for a pittance.

“The effects of AA are apparent when it is dropped.”

It depends which questions you ask Flowerpower.

What results were achieved by those who gained entry due to AA?

Were they as good or worse than those gained by other students?

AA is good for getting people into positions for which they would be eligible were it not for failure earlier in their life. Somebody might be clever enough for Harvard, but not be able to prove it because they went to a shit school because their parents were poor (or black etc).

You quote doesn’t prove that AA got people into university, it only proves that people who would deserve to go to university under different circumstances no longer do.

Sunny: “there is some level of exclusion going on, given the fact that the colleges themselves have vastly different levels of outcomes on entry (by race).”

This is based on a confusion.
That we’ve established is that there are fewer black people in Oxbridge tout court, but this doesn’t suggest that there is exclusion (at the Oxbridge level) because there are also far fewer black people applying. If there are very few butch rugby players who perform ballet this does not suggest discrimination, but that very few rugby players put themselves forward to be ballerinas. Of course in the race/Oxbridge case, the reasons for low numbers of applicants who are ethnic minorities/working class are more complex (the myriad ways that social disadvantage makes one less inclined to apply for elite positions, value academia, feel that you’d enjoy being at Oxbridge etc etc), but it’s this level that the deprivation occurs.

If we’ve established that fewer black students who get in than white students who apply, then this still doesn’t establish exclusion at the Oxbridge level. Perhaps the black students just objectively perform worse than their white counterparts: might we not suspect that the few black applicants have received less preparation and coaching, fewer extra-curricular activities, feel more perturbed at being interviewed by Oxbridge dons than their privileged white competitors etc? Again this would place the ‘exclusion’ at the prior level, the level where disadvantaged students do well to get three A’s and large numbers of privileged students get 5 or more.

BTW, no I’m not sure this is a sign of racism at universities, classism possibly, failure of lower educations certainly, but racism only a hesitant maybe (although I suspect it to a small to very small extent on most levels in society).

41

I’m not saying there are direct linkages; the fact that only 1% of the UK population is defined as Black Caribbean origin doesn’t mean that there is nothing to be gained by an examination of why African Americans in the USA and black candidates in the UK are underrepresented in top flight universities.

The fact that the UK is more ethnically homogeneous doesn’t ipso fact mean that examining experiences in different countries isn’t a useful comparison.

The fact that the UK is more ethnically homogeneous doesn’t ipso facto mean that examining experiences in different countries isn’t a useful comparison.

True, and there may be lessons to be learned. But be wary of direct read-across of the ‘the Ivy League manages to have 1 in 6 black students’ (or whatever), because the equivalent population is 12 times greater.

47

I wasn’t saying there was any direct read across, I’m genuinely interested in finding out the differences. I realise of course that there are big differences, but given that Oxbridge and Ivy League institutions are often compared, I think it would be interesting to see what the differences are particularly “weighted” to tak account of the differences in the % of the population, applications vs places awarded etc.

I think it would be interesting to see what the differences are particularly “weighted” to tak account of the differences in the % of the population, applications vs places awarded etc.

No, unless you’re American, it isn’t of any interest. To US people, minority=black, that’s the way it goes. In the UK, we have a 10% ethnic minority population, of which 1% (of total population) are black Caribbean and 1% are black African.

Black Caribbean kids’ school performance tracks that of working class white kids; black African (and indeed, most other minority groups) performance is in line with or ahead of the white average.

Outside of black Caribbeans, Oxbridge’s admissions of black Africans are *slightly* below the white average; its admissions of other ethnic minority groups are above.

If any institution is failing black Caribbean people and not other ethnic minorities, then unless there’s very clear evidence that it’s not failing white working class people, that’s a sign that it’s failing *black and white* working class people.

None of these dynamics apply in the US, so a comparison of Ivy League race data with Oxbridge race data is complete bullshit.

(I’ve written a piece on this whole issue making the wider class point, but I think it’s been queued until tomorrow.)

49 – It’s quite clearly a class problem. I don’t think though that the blame should be laid at the door of tertiary education, when the problems start in primary education (or before) and are most clearly exhibited in secondary education.

49

Indeed. It will be so hard having to wait a whole day for a considered response from such an aggressive, condescending know-all….. but I think I’ll manage.

@51, I hope you manage to contain yourself. Sorry for the aggressive use of facts.

To get to Oxford or Cambridge you have to have really good grades, and if you come from an inner city comprehensive, being ”a swot” is something you might really not want to be seen as. It’s not cool to be in the top stream for every subject and be getting straight A’s.

Students waiting in the lounge at Audrey Cohen College cluster in small groups, murmuring and shaking their heads as they read the flier summarizing the eye-popping views of the evening’s guest speaker.

He’s the one who writes that African Americans undermine their own progress by subscribing to “a cult of victimology” that leads them to loaf through school, mistake minor inconveniences for crippling racism and embrace an anti-intellectual culture that frowns on serious scholarship.

The students can hardly wait to get a load of whoever wrote this stuff. “Who is this guy?” asks Raemona Winningham, 34, a social worker and mother of six pursuing her bachelor’s degree at this small college in lower Manhattan. “I’m reading this and not liking what I’m seeing. This is just a little too much.”

John H. McWhorter has been here before. In the months since publishing his controversial new book, “Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America,” the black 34-year-old University of California-Berkeley linguistics professor has been in hot demand — by both supporters and critics alike.

http://www.racematters.org/mcwhorter.htm

The Times ran a story on him in 2008 with the healine: ”John McWhorter: the most unpopular black man in America?”
http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/music/article4311440.ece

You can see why. That’s a very unfashionable thesis.

This is a total outrage. The racism at Oxford University extends to its staff also. No black academic or lab staff out of 1,500.

Read more here

http://www.savablogs.info/2010/12/institutional-racism-outrage-as-it.html

55. the a&e charge nurse

[34] “My daughter just started at Cambridge” – that’s a great achievement for her, and by extension your family given the ferocious competition for places at the likes of Cambridge (which I think in recent years has been touted as one of the best universities in the world).
Well done for supporting her through her education – if she was educated at a state school, then double well done!!

56. the a&e charge nurse

[54] good point – what is the ethnic mix of teaching staff?

As someone who has spent most of the last twenty years being associated with various universities, I just want to know one thing. For those who assume racism, or classism, who the hell is perpetrating this?

The academics – although academia covers the whole range of political views, it is very clearly centred in a left-of-centre liberalism (light pink Marxism was my favourite description, by a rather openly gay and very funny English lecturer). And the closed minds required to be racist or classist do not tend to function well in out-and-out elitist institutions such as universities, where it is generally a good idea to keep you mind receptive and not to prejudge.

The administration – normally made up of partially failed academics, people who want to stay near their university and then a normal mix of people – and governed by some very ferocious rules about not discriminating (check out university’s legislation pages if you want proof). Since the concern is recruiting the best, and often this is done by going to other countries to find students of a high standard, including Africa and the Caribeen, I doubt racism is an issue there.

Some wierd conspiracy? Not unless you want the tin-foil hat that Sunny used to bestow on people.

So if it is not an institutional problem with our education system (which many contributers seem to think has to be ‘saved’ for some reason) then what is the underlying problem?

The only other solution I could think of is cultural – there is less incentive for Black Caribeen children to go to university for whatever reason. Not sure how well that stands up either…

The class stuff is just as striking, of course. Of course class and ‘race’ are closely associated in Britain, so that’s not surprising. Still. No one from the core Black Country towns getting into Cambridge in the past seven years? The sad part is that it isn’t a surprise.

I’m an alumnus of Merton, and a friend of mine says that there definitely has been a black student in the past five years, because she knows him.

However, put like that it still doesn’t exactly sound great does it?

It’s still a fact that there are shockingly low numbers of black students at Oxbridge, which is what the article shows. Clearly, the problem is not as simple as saying that it’s all Oxford’s (or Cambridge’s) fault, because of course factors prior to Oxbridge come into play. But as it presently stands, for whatever reason Oxford is dominated by people from a very narrow background. This is not down to some sort of deliberate conspiracy to exclude people, but these things never are.

However, the insitutional culture and atmosphere at Oxford is not geared towards identifying, welcoming and encouraging applications from exceptional students from underrepresented backgrounds. Both universities do a lot of access work that tends to go unreported in cases like this, but that can only achieve so much if it is simply tacked on without any other changes being made.

One assumption made in many comments above is that Oxbridge should really only be offering to students who achieve AAA. But that means excluding exceptional students from backgrounds that haven’t enabled them to live up to their potential. If Oxbridge is so proud of the quality of its tuition, it should be no problem to provide opportunities for those people to live up to their potential. And a healthy injection of diversity into Oxbridge would help to change the image it puts across to future applicants.

52 John B

We can but hope your aggressive use of “facts” produces something more considered and of better quality than your last effort eh?

People should read “Telling lies about Oxbridge” http://bit.ly/fqDAFk before leaping to conclusions.

Allegedly, if you include all Black British, Black African, Mixed British etc etc you get a different result. Then there are foreign students, of course.

David Lammy only included a subset of black people (Black Afro-Carribean British) but has chosen to represent this as if it applies to all black people.

This is a disgraceful bit of data mining and I would have expected better from David Lammy. It’s not at all clear to me what good this will do black people!

He then, allegedly, compounds the error by mentioning FOI, implying these data are secret when apparently they are freely available on Oxford’s website.

This degree of misrepresentation merely serves to obscure the real and very serious problem that schools are not educating black children sufficiently well to get into Oxbridge.

(And, of course, many other types of children: working class, Pakistani, disabled, northerners and loads of others.)

To my mind, another own goal by Lammy.

Last but not least, who was in government through the entire time these unfortunate children were at school? Oh that’s right: Labour.

What a pity Lammy didn’t do more to help them when he had the chance rather than indulging in counterproductive data mining now he’s got plenty of time on his hands. :<

Er, so are we not talking about black as in Southall Black Sisters?

Because that would include Asians.

Or as in Met Black Police Association?

Because that would include Iranians too…

For interest, here is a link to the Executive Summary of the OECD PISA Results:
http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/34/60/46619703.pdf

Secondary school pupils in the UK are falling behind their international counterparts, according to a major survey from the OECD.

Pupils have slipped down a global league table in reading, maths and science, based on two-hour tests taken in 65 school systems around the world.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-11929277

Rather than blaming universities for the consequences of basing student entry on attainment in school leaving exams, perhaps we should focus on why schooling standards in Britain are slipping.

Listen to Lammy here http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/console/b00wcqyk/Gabby_Logan_07_12_2010 about 1.45 in. It’s all bluster, no logical argument and (IMO) makes a fool of himself – a la Mastermind.

Here’s a really challenging finding by the OECD PISA study:

PARIS, Dec. 7 (Xinhua) — Young Chinese students in Shanghai, a partner city in the education assessment program of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), excelled its members in reading literacy with the highest mean score, according to a report released by the Paris-based organization on Tuesday.
http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/culture/2010-12/08/c_13639385.htm

Note: “The number of Chinese characters contained in the Kangxi dictionary is approximately 47,035, although a large number of these are rarely used variants accumulated throughout history. Studies carried out in China have shown that full literacy in the Chinese language requires a knowledge of between three and four thousand characters.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_character

Compare this finding in a report a few years back from the HoC Public Accounts Committee:

“Up to 12 million working UK adults have the literacy skills expected of a primary school child, the [HoC] Public Accounts Committee says. . . The report says there are up 12 million people holding down jobs with literacy skills and up to 16 million with numeracy skills at the level expected of children leaving primary school.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4642396.stm

“His office also sent us the FOI data.”

Marvellous! Could you publish it in full please? I want to test a theory. I have a suspicion about what one of the mechanisms of disadvantage might be.

By the way, I really don’t think you’re doing yourself any favours by making these tiny numbers into percentages. In the case of the Oxford 2009 stats (including the infamous single Black Caribbean student), the official figures were flagged up on CiF pretty early on. They’re linked on my blog, but here’s a taster (paraphrased by me):

The success rate of Black Caribbean applicants in 2009 Oxford admissions was 2.9%, whereas the success rate of the Black Other category was 21.4%! Why this huge disparity? There must be some huge, complex intra-black discrimination going on surely!

No, because that 2.9% represents 1 student out of 35 applicants, and the 21.4% represents 3 students out of 14 applicants. In the context of 10,000 applications and 2,600 admissions, this is statistical noise.

But it doesn’t rule out there being a problem – we’d need to see the full figures.

If I was black I wouldn’t want to go to Oxbridge.
Dreadful human beings
It seems to be a breeding ground for right wing racist clowns like Stuart, Tyler and Tim.
Most would quite happily put in you in chains and send you to Jamaica.
Most are so useless that they can only go into three professions.
Journalism, the last refuge for the Thatcherite bigot
Teaching, the last refuge for incompetent
Academia, the last refuge of the coward

Bob doesn’t the PISA stats include independent students as well as state schools.

Finland always does well.
Many UK schools have gone to Finland to see how they succeed
It seems that many lessons are independently researched by the students with the teacher as the faclilator.
I also note that the top 10 countries have very few independent schools.
Many like Finland have comprehensive systems with high ability streaming


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Racial exclusion at Oxbridge exposed by FOI http://bit.ly/f8ykTK

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    RT @libcon: Racial exclusion at Oxbridge exposed by FOI http://bit.ly/f8ykTK

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    RT @libcon: Racial exclusion at Oxbridge exposed by FOI http://bit.ly/f8ykTK

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    RT @libcon: Racial exclusion at Oxbridge exposed by FOI http://bit.ly/f8ykTK

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    RT @libcon: Racial exclusion at Oxbridge exposed by FOI http://bit.ly/f8ykTK

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    [...] recent Teacupgate saga that black (meaning black, not BME) students are underrepresented at Oxbridge is a good [...]

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    RT @libcon: Racial exclusion at Oxbridge exposed by FOI http://bit.ly/f8ykTK





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