Latest admissions data only reinforces stereotypes

2015 statistics continue to indicate Oxford demographics not representative of the UK


The University released admissions statistics for 2015 entry this week.

The data shown on its website provides a look into the composition of this year’s class of first years with information on nationality, UK region of domicile, gender, ethnicity, school type and income level. It also shows acceptance rates for each course and college.

There is a possibility that it will provoke controversy, with admissions to Oxbridge always subject to intense scrutiny. The University is commonly criticised on the grounds that its student body is not demographically representative of the UK population. For instance, while independent schools educate only seven per cent of the UK’s school population, this year’s statistics show that of UK applicants attending state or independent schools, 44.4 per cent of places went to students from the independent sector.

The proportion of state school students admitted, however, has, for better or worse, remained relatively constant over the last several years: 52.7 per cent of the cohort admitted for 2007 entry had attended state school. The new data shows that state school students constitute 54 per cent of those accepted for undergraduate study in Oxford for 2015.

Oxford has also been accused of failing to attract and accept black and minority ethic students, notably by the Rhodes Must Fall in Oxford campaign. According to the 2015 statistics, 83 per cent of Oxford’s latest intake are white and 14.1 per cent are BME, although only 38 students accepted were of black or black British ethnic background.

However, Oxford has noted that its ethnic mix is not ‘dramatically out of line with either the national picture or its peer institutions’, pointing to admissions data for Russell Group and UK first-year undergraduates. Yet, Oxford’s proportion of BME students is more than 30 per cent lower than the national proportion of first year BME undergraduates, which is 22 per cent.

But Oxford is taking steps to improve access, with targets set under its Access Agreement with the Office for Fair Access. Target categories include: students with disabilites, students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds and students from schools and neighbourhoods with historically low progression to Oxford or participation in higher education.

For 2015 entry, 41.7 per cent of UK applicants met at least one target category, and ended up constituting 34.4 per cent of successful UK students.

There were a total of 18,377 applications, the data shows. UK-domiciled students continue to make up the great majority of applicants (63.8 per cent), and an even greater proportion of those offered a place (80.8 per cent).

Within the UK itself, more than half (56.5 per cent) of applicants hail from the South East, the South West and Greater London (and 58.4 per cent of those offered places).

The University data also provides other insights into Oxford admissions, separate from demographic breakdown. For instance, the most applied to courses last year were PPE (1651 apps), Medicine (1433 apps), and Law (1262 apps). Meanwhile, Theology & Oriental Studies only saw four applicants.

Brasenose, St John’s, Keble and Balliol were the most applied to colleges; only 63 students applied to the Permanent Private Halls.

The enterprising school student might do well to consider applying to St Hilda’s (22 percent accepted) for Classics (36 per cent accepted).

The University has been contacted for comment.


  1. Oxford select on ability not on demographics. All the while there is an uneven distribution of ability across the demographics (which is not the fault of Oxbridge) then it is stupid to imagine that a proportional representation of demographic sectors will arise from a selection process based on ability. This is article represents erroneous and misleading and frankly stupid use of statistics dressed up as a sophisticated meaningful stats and serves only to make Cherwell look rather foolish.

    • I was not aware that privately educated people are significantly more intelligent than the rest of us. Certainly I did not notice this superiority when I was an undergraduate at Oxford some 35 years ago or indeed when I taught at public schools in the 1980s. Much of the discrepancies in entrance can be explained by private schools being more focused and organized on the matter of Oxford or Cambridge entrance because that is what their customers, the parents, expect of them. If Oxford wants to get the best undergraduates then it needs to constantly challenge itself on whether its entrance procedures take account of the advantages that most privately educated candidates will have over their state school counterparts. Having been responsible for getting quite mediocre privately educated people into Oxford – it was my job! – I know that this advantage is not to be discounted.

  2. I dont’t think this is necessarily a problem with discrimination in the admission process. Oxford generally selects the best pupils, regardless of ability (correct me if i’m wrong and you have counter-examples). It is the pool of applicants and their background that is the reason for the underepresentation of some groups. Why do so many hail from the south-east and greater london? It’s probably more due to government policy than discrimination


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