Fresh accusations that Oxbridge admissions is letting down students from minorities have surfaced despite figures revealing that 32 black students were accepted for undergraduate study at the University of Oxford this year, the largest figure in a decade.

Questions remain as to whether Oxford and Cambridge are doing enough to encourage applications from those in ethnic minorities, with only 14% of black applicants accepted to Oxford, as opposed to 24.1% of white applicants.

Concerns were raised earlier this year, when Prime Minister David Cameron, infamously a member of the Bullingdon club whilst at Oxford, said the fact that only one black student had been admitted last year by his former institution “disgraceful”.

At the time, Oxford responded furiously – calling his claim that only one black student had been admitted that year “incorrect and highly misleading.”’ At least 26 black British undergraduates had been admitted, according to University figures.

Daniel Stone, the President of the Black and Minority Students campaign and current student of Cambridge, said the issues could not be confined solely to an examination of the perceived failings of Universities.  He said, “We have to look a bit earlier, in terms of the schooling they’re getting and the teaching and the support.”

This echoed comments made by Sir Michael Wilshaw, the incoming head of Ofsted, who said “The statistics clearly show that [state] schools aren't doing enough to encourage black and ethnic minority students to apply to the top universities.”

And when ethnic minority candidates do apply, it appears intake numbers are held back as many apply for the most popular subjects, where statistically each candidate has a diminished chance of success. In 2010-2011 43% of all ethnic minority applicants to Oxford applied to one of the three most oversubscribed courses on offer –medicine, maths, and economics and business.

Furthermore, broader concerns about access to Oxbridge are increasing after the introduction of a higher tuition fees has seen an 11.9% drop in applicants from UK residents, according to interim figures.

However both Universities have been eager to stress the successful long term prognosis of their access work, and their continued commitment to it. For the academic year 2011-2012, Cambridge has formalised its use of six types of contextual data that informs the admissions process, which focuses on candidates’ educational environment and background – data that is likely to be informed by ethnicity, although it does not directly pertain to it.

Cambridge also flagged up the success of recent years; 15% of students currently at the institution are from an ethnic minority, in comparison to a mere 5% in 1989.

 

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