Oxford accepted fewer applications from poor neighbourhoods in the 2017-18 academic year than any other mainstream institution, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
Just 2.8 per cent of the University’s intake were from students who live in areas classified as the most difficult to engage in higher education. Cambridge accepted 3 per cent of students from these areas, while University College London accepted 3.2 per cent and Durham University 4.2 per cent.
The statistics come as universities are being pressured to increase the number of students from poorer backgrounds. Oxford spends £7 million on “outreach” programmes, which include visiting schools whose students never apply and the hosting of summer schools.
Durham, for instance, runs a summer school with the Sutton Trust, which is “designed to give bright students from non-privileged homes the opportunity to experience what it is like to be a student at a leading university.”
Lee Eliot Major, chief executive of the Sutton Trust, told The Times it was “seriously depressing” that so few students at Oxford represent the poorest neighbourhoods, calling for a re-evaluation of university outreach strategies.
“We need a radical change to shift this. Universities have to give poorer kids a break. This means taking their social background into account in the admissions process,” Major said.
David Lammy, Labour MP for Tottenham and prominent campaigner for equality in the higher education system, lamented the statistics in a tweet this morning.
Only 2.8% of Oxford students are from poor neighbourhoods – the lowest of any university. Shame on them. Oxbridge take £700m a year in taxpayers' money yet are not tackling entrenched privilege and fail to recognise this problem. My campaign will continue. https://t.co/EL7ZqDnYi5
— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) March 28, 2018
A University spokesperson said in a statement that, this year, “for the first time, candidates from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are more successful at getting offers from Oxford when they apply than their more advantaged peers.”
The statistics also show that Oxford performed poorly in the proportion of state school pupils accepted to study here. 58 per cent of students are from state schools, compared to 62.6 per cent at Cambridge.