Statement on Applicant Diversity

Oxford University and the Government should be doing more to encourage all students to apply to Oxford


The data released today by David Lammy MP, following Freedom of Information requests to the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, shows a significant disparity in young people being offered places at Oxford based on their socio-economic status, race and geographical location.

Oxford University needs to be doing more to make sure that it is open to all students both in the application process and whilst at university. Oxford SU is campaigning to improve on improving access to education for students from different backgrounds, whilst as well as making sure that students receive the support they need at Oxford.                                

Catherine Canning Vice President for Access and Academic Affairs said                                                         

‘We believe that the University should set and strive to meet stretching targets for widening access to Oxford. We believe access stems from long before application and does not stop at an offer letter. The University has an obligation to support students throughout this process.                                              

We believe that there are large and unacceptable attainment gaps in schools, which greatly disadvantage black pupils and those from low-income backgrounds, among other underrepresented groups. We believe that the Government is failing these pupils and must do more to raise attainment and aspirations in schools.

We are already working with the University on improving access, but invite them to engage with us further and particularly with our student led campaigns, CRAE, Class Act and other relevant student societies in order to be more effective in their outreach work.’                                                                 

Class Act is an Oxford SU campaign, set up at the end of April this year to support and represent students from working class, low income, first generation, and state comprehensive school backgrounds. Class Act’s work over the coming year will focus both on the common concerns associated with each of their focus groups, and on the more specific problems members of these groups can face at Oxford. They’ll be doing both campaigning work and will be hosting social and speaker events throughout term times.

Ellery Shentall, Co-Chair of Class Act said

‘This data shows an unfortunately unsurprising disparity in the number of students from low income and working class backgrounds being offered places at the University of Oxford, as compared to their counterparts. It also demonstrates grave regional disparities.

My experience and that of many of the Class Act committee is that class, socioeconomic and educational background does make a difference in a student’s experience of the university. However things are changing both with student-led initiatives from campaigns like Class Act, and by increasing interest from the university itself in the experience of students from these backgrounds at the university.’

The Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) is an Oxford SU campaign dedicated to creating a more just and inclusive student experience at the University through action and engagement with racial diversity and difference. In the past year they have taken the following actions: running pilot programmes with Colleges to spark greater outreach to BME students in local schools. 100 Voices, a participant action research effort to assemble and share the experiences of BME students at Oxford.

Neha Shah, co-chair of CRAE said

This situation is, unfortunately, not surprising to students of colour and BAME  students at Oxford. An entrenched systematic bias persists at all levels of the university, especially with regard to racial and ethnic diversity. Whiteness dominates Oxford university in terms of curriculums, colonial heritage, and staff/student representation. This bias manifests itself in all stages of the application process, especially in the interview process, meaning that Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) and People of Colour (POC) candidates are often unfairly discriminated against. The intersection of race and socioeconomic status when it comes to students wanting to apply to Oxford university is an area that the university must focus on if it hopes to improve access for members of disadvantaged groups.

It is clear that current access initiatives are not working as well as they should be. The very fact that the university was initially reluctant to share data about for fear of inadvertently revealing students’ identities tells us enough about the lack of ethnic minority students at Oxford. Student-led initiatives, such as the African-Caribbean Society’s Annual Conference, and schemes such as the LMH Foundation Year and University college’s "Bridging Course" are important steps in changing the status quo.


Notes to Editors

Oxford SU’s mission is to represent, support and enhance the lives of Oxford students. We are led by a team of six full time student officers who are elected by students each year.

For more information or interview requests please contact Emily Beardsmore - Communications Manager (Out of Hours phone: 07922950180)




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