Lord Adonis, former Labour transport secretary and education ministerLouis Ashworth

Labour peer Andrew Adonis has claimed that Oxford and Cambridge must create new colleges for disadvantaged applicants in order to combat access issues at the universities.

The former transport secretary, writing in The Guardian, said that the two universities must adopt this “revolutionary but achievable policy” in order to increase the number of places available for applicants from “schools and families without an Oxbridge tradition”, citing the Sutton Trust report into Oxbridge admissions which revealed that eight schools send more students to the two universities than nearly 3,000 state schools and colleges combined.

Similarly, a Varsity investigation into access found over 1,140 schools saw zero applicants admitted to Oxbridge between 2006 and 2017, despite students from these school having applied, while nearly half of all entries over the same eleven-year-period came from just 143 schools.

Responding to Adonis’ remarks, a University spokesperson told Varsity:  “We know we can do better still but we cannot do it in isolation. As a country, we must focus on raising ambitions and attainment levels in schools and on changing perceptions among parents and teachers.

“The University and its colleges offer a range of bursaries for students who might struggle financially. We have just launched a campaign to raise £500 million specifically to target students who might be put off from applying to Cambridge and will be making further announcements shortly.”


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Adonis’ suggestions echo those made by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) in a report published last year, ‘Reaching the Parts of Society Universities Have Missed’, which proposed Oxbridge follow the lead of other universities such as UCL and Bristol by creating additional undergraduate places.

Lord Adonis is not the first prominent figure within the Labour Party to criticise Oxbridge admissions, with David Lammy MP proposing a centralised admissions system and arguing that the universities should follow the lead of Ivy League colleges in America, which take into account a student’s class and local authority rank when making offers.