• 10 out of 32 Oxford colleges did not award a single place to a black British pupil (NITV News)Source: NITV News
Oxford University has been accused of “social apartheid” after figures showed that nearly one in three colleges failed to admit a single black A-level student in 2015.
Staff Writer

20 Oct 2017 - 3:59 PM  UPDATED 20 Oct 2017 - 3:59 PM

A controversy has arisen after revelations that a number of Oxford University colleges had failed to admit any black students in a whole year.

The figures come just after former UK Labour minister for higher education, David Lammy, requested data which showed 10 out of 32 Oxford colleges did not award a single place to a black British pupil.

“This is social apartheid and it is utterly unrepresentative of life in modern Britain,” Mr Lammy told the Guardian.

“Difficult questions have to be asked, including whether there is systematic bias inherent in the Oxbridge admissions process that is working against talented young people from ethnic minority backgrounds.”

Oriel College only offered one place to a black British A-level student in six years. Meanwhile data released by Cambridge revealed that six colleges there failed to admit any black British A-level students in the same year.

Between the years of 2010 and 2015, only three Oxford colleges and six Cambridge colleges made at least one offer of an undergraduate place to a black British A-level student.

Dr Tom Calma, the first Indigenous male Chancellor of an Australian university, told NITV News it was concerning that people who are qualified can’t get a foot in the door. However he also says that for Indigenous Australians, it's counter to what’s happening in England at the moment.

“That hasn’t been the same experience for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people at Oxford.”

Dr Calma, a trustee of the Charlie Perkins trust said that during the last four years, candidates and students under scholarship have been sent to Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard.

“We’ve had 25 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students graduate at top universities across the globe,” he said.

“When we first started everyone said we wouldn’t get anyone over there, but four years later and we’ve had more than 20 graduates.”

Overseas Indigenous success amongst students has been rapidly growing, in what has been described as a “population parody” with statistics showing three per cent of Australian postgraduate at Oxford are Indigenous. There are currently 16 Indigenous Australians studying at top universities across the globe.

“We’re also working... to show talented young black people that they can fit in and thrive at a university like Oxford." 

This isn’t the first time data published has highlighted a stark racial divide. In 2009 it was revealed that 21 Oxbridge colleges offered no places to black students, in 2015 the number dropped to 16. The figures suggest that elite colleges still fail to achieve participation.

A spokesperson for Oxford told the  rectifying the problem would be “a long journey that requires huge, joined-up effort across society – including from leading universities like Oxford – to address serious inequalities”.

Oxford said students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds made up 15.9 per cent of its 2016 UK undergraduate intake, up from 14.5 per cent in 2015 and double those in 2010. Those figures include British, Asian and other minority students.

“We’re also working with organisations such as Target Oxbridge and the newly formed Oxford black alumni network, to show talented young black people that they can fit in and thrive at a university like Oxford. All of this shows real progress and is something we want to improve on further,” the spokesperson said.

A spokesman for Cambridge said: “The greatest barrier to participation at selective universities for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is low attainment at school. We assess the achievements of these students in their full context to ensure that students with great academic potential are identified.

“Widening participation further will require government, schools, universities, charities, parents and students to work closely together. We will continue to work hard with all parties to raise aspirations and attainment to improve access to higher education.”

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