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Labour MP David Lammy slams 'social apartheid' of Oxbridge admissions

Agnes Chambre

2 min read

Oxford and Cambridge represent a “social apartheid”, a former Labour minister has said as he revealed “shocking figures” on admissions of ethnic minority students.

David Lammy attacked Oxford colleges as “fiefdoms of entrenched privilege" and called for greater diversity in the top universities. 

Mr Lammy revealed, after sending numerous Freedom of Information requests, that in every year between 2010 and 2015, 13 of Oxford’s 38 colleges did not offer one place to a black A level candidate. 

He also discovered that less than 1% of offers from Cambridge went to Pakistani applicants. On top of this,  between 2010 and 2015, less than 1% went to black students. 

Between those five years, Cambridge also made more offers to students from the Home Counties than to the whole of the North of England. 

The percentage of places offered to the top social classes was raised from 79% in 2010, to 82% in 2015 at Oxford and 81% at Cambridge in 2015.

Mr Lammy said it was “not good enough” and universities cannot blame the school system. 

He is calling for the two universties to centralise the admissions process rather than the current system which sees applicants apply through colleges. 

Mr Lammy 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.

“This is social apartheid and it is utterly unrepresentative of life in modern Britain.

"An Oxbridge degree is still the golden ticket in our society and a gateway to the top jobs so the Government has a responsibility to hold Oxbridge to account."

A spokesperson for the university of Cambridge said: "We aim to widen participation further whilst maintaining high academic standards.

"Our admissions decisions are based on academic considerations alone. We are committed to admitting the best students who will thrive on our courses.

"The greatest barrier to participation at selective universities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is low attainment at school.

"We assess the achievements of these students in their full context to ensure that students with great academic potential are identified."

A university of Oxford spokesman said it will be "a long journey that requires huge, joined-up effort across society - including from leading universities like Oxford - to address serious inequalities".

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