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Thu, 13 August 2020

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Universities Minister Sam Gyimah blasts Oxbridge over 'staggering' lack of black students

Universities Minister Sam Gyimah blasts Oxbridge over 'staggering' lack of black students
3 min read

Conservative minister Sam Gyimah has torn into Oxford and Cambridge universities over a "staggering" lack of diversity in their top colleges.

MPs last month rounded on both institutions after new figures showed many colleges were still failing to admit significant numbers of black or mixed-race applicants.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Mr Gyimah urged both institutions to step up and boost their outreach programmes in a bid to counter feeder schemes that give a leg-up to applicants from elite schools.

"What Oxford should be doing is helping those schools who do not have those inbuilt systems, to actually develop those advantages in those schools," he said. "If you don’t know those systems, you don’t have a hope of getting through."

The Universities Minister also backed calls for Oxbridge to make use of so-called contextualised admissions - which lower grade requirements for those from disadvantaged backgrounds - and warned that the Office for Students watchdog could make use of "very hard levers" if the universities failed to act.

"The numbers that we are seeing now disappoint me, and it’s disappointing because it’s been going on for too long," he said.

"Years ago we were having the same debate about Oxford and Cambridge as we are today, and that is very disappointing.

"I don’t think they’re doing enough...It is staggering that we have the best minds in our universities and we still do not know what the best way is when it comes to applications."

Pointing out that top US universities Yale and Harvard had managed to diversify their intakes, Mr Gyimah added: "It’s about time that Oxford and Cambridge stood up to the mark."

Labour MP David Lammy last month slammed Oxford as a "bastion of white, middle class, southern privilege", while 100 MPs put their names to a joint letter calling on the universities to take action.

The row came after both organisations published new admissions figures, with Cambridge's data revealing that six of its colleges did not admit more than 10 British black or mixed-raced students over a five year period - with one failing to make a single offer.

Oxford's figures meanwhile showed that one in four of its colleges failed to admit any black British students over a three-year period.

White British applicants to Oxford were also found to be twice as likely to be admitted as their black counterparts, with just 14% of black applicants admitted in 2017, compared to a success rate of one in four for white pupils.

Oxford has vowed to ramp up its summer school programme, with a spokesperson saying the organisation was making "rapid progress" in boosting representation.

Cambridge also said it had made "significant progress" in recent years, with one in five students now hailing from a black or minority ethnic background.