Last week Lammy branded Oxbridge “fiefdoms of entrenched privilege”David Lammy MP

David Lammy MP has argued in an interview with Varsity that there are a number of concrete reforms Oxbridge should make in order to diversify their student bodies.

The Labour MP for Tottenham suggested that one of the main problems with the Oxbridge admissions system was the two institutions’ collegiate structure, meaning that there could be significant disparities in how far different colleges are willing to go in order to widen access. The universities should look at moving towards a centralised admissions system to reduce the disparities, argued Lammy.

Lammy also came out in support of a foundational year for students from under-privileged backgrounds, a model that has proved successful at Lady Margaret Hall at Oxford. He also said that Oxbridge should follow the lead of Ivy League colleges in America, who take into account a student’s class and local authority rank when making offers.

Lammy finally argued that Oxbridge should be more proactive in approaching talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds, saying that the universities should be “actively write to young people in Sunderland, in Rochdale, in Salford, in Tottenham who get straight As and say… we want you to apply.”

The recommendations echo comments in a letter sent from Lammy and signed by 108 MPs on Wednesday to vice-chancellor Stephen Toope and the vice-chancellor of Oxford University, Louise Richardson, expressing their disappointment that the universities “continue to draw the overwhelmingly majority of their students from a small minority both in terms of geography and socio-economic background.”

Toope responded to the criticism by saying that while he acknowledged more work needed to be done, “a great deal has already changed in our outreach work”. He said that the University had made “real and sustained progress” in widening access, such as the £5 million it spent last year on access initiatives.


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The criticisms come after Lammy released data last week revealing large, and increasing, class and social disparities at Oxford and Cambridge. The findings revealed that between 2010 and 2015, the proportion of Cambridge offers to applicants from the top two social classes rose from 79% to 81%. In the same period, on average a quarter of Cambridge colleges made no offers to black British applicant.

The data also showed that throughout the five year period, Cambridge made more offers to applicants from four of the Home Counties than the whole of the North of England, leading Lammy to label Oxbridge “the last bastions of the old school tie”.

In the interview with Varsity, Lammy also responded to criticisms that similar inequalities existed across other British universities, saying that while there were problems at places like Exeter and Bristol, it was right that Oxbridge was the centre of attention as “the two educational institutions in this country that are largely considered to be across the globe second to none”

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