Oxford University accused of racial discrimination

After the release of recent figures on applications to Oxford University in 2010 and 2011, results reveal that white applicants are far more likely to receive offers from the university than applicants from ethnic minorities.

The figures were gathered and published under a Freedom of Information request and showed that nearly 25.7% of white applicants were offered a place, whereas the corresponding percentage for ethnic minority applicants was only 17.2%

White applicants can be twice as likely to be offered a place at the University of Oxford than ethnic minority students. ©Wikimedia Commons

While figures have shown similar patterns previously, the results have often been explained by the fact that ethnic minority applicants tend to apply for the most competitive courses. Newly published results, however, reveal that the difference was notable in the most competitive subject areas.

White applicants for medicine as well as economics and management were approximately twice as likely to receive an offer, even with applicants who had achieved 3 or more A* grades at A-level. Out of those, 43% of white medicine applicants and 22.1% of non-white applicants were offered a place. The rates for economics and management were 44.4% and 29.5%.

On the other hand, white and minority applicants had similar chances of getting an offer to study law at Oxford.

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, concludes: "We now know BME [Black and Minority Ethnic] students get fewer offers even with the same grades. Where there are interviews and quite large hurdles at the application stage, as with Oxbridge, it is for the universities to demonstrate there is not institutional bias. These figures suggest institutional bias, and certainly show sustained institutional failure." (The Guardian, 26.2.2013)

Cambridge refused the same FoI request on the grounds of its cost but provided similar figures from 2007-2009. The results were not notably different from Oxford's.

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