JCR presidents ‘disappointed’ by access report

The letter calls on the University and Colleges "to take every possible step to ensure that this situation improves in the short and long-term"

The president of Teddy Hall, which ranked lowest for proportion of UK BME students, did not sign the letter.

The presidents of 22 college JCRs have signed a letter saying they are “heavily disappointed” by newly released access data.

The letter calls on the University and its colleges “to take every possible step to ensure that this situation improves in the short and long-term”.

The data, released by the University on Tuesday, showed that Oxford admitted more Westminster pupils than black students in 2017.

Published today by the JCR Presidents Committee in response to the release, the letter continues: “Though there is a range of results between colleges, we maintain that what this report highlights is a systemic issue across the University. Too few BAME (Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic), socioeconomically disadvantaged, and state school educated students are admitted.

“This is due to the fact that too few students from minority or disadvantaged backgrounds apply to study at Oxford, and too few of those who do make applications are admitted. This situation must change.”

The presidents added that there were reasons to be optimistic about access at the University.

They said: “Across the student body at Oxford, people are working tirelessly to make sure that the University and College environment is as welcoming and inclusive as it can be.

“Student-led campaigns, such as the Campaign for Racial Awareness and Equality (CRAE) and the Class Act Campaign, alongside societies, such as the First-Generation Students Society and the African and Caribbean Society, are university-wide organisations that are taking important strides in increasing awareness of race and class-related issues, as well as undertaking access work of their own.”

The letter also praised programmes such as the foundation year at Lady Margaret Hall for demonstrating “a commitment to improving access at Oxford”.

The foundation year, which was introduced in 2016, is based on a programme used by Trinity College Dublin to widen undergraduate admissions.

While the letter praised the University for expanding its Uniq programme, the presidents said that “much more needs to be done to develop stronger relationships between student groups, Colleges and the University, that allow for collaborative work and resourcing of more effective outreach initiatives.”

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Notable absences from the letter’s signatories initially included the presidents of Trinity and St Edmund Hall colleges.

Trinity College ranked lowest for the proportion of UK state school students in the data release, while St Edmund Hall accepted the lowest proportion of UK BME students.

After the letter’s publication, St Edmund Hall’s JCR President told Cherwell: “St. Edmund Hall is strongly in favour of this joint statement and it is only through an unfortunate miscommunication that our JCR is not one of the signatures. We are staunchly committed to ensuring diversity and fairness in the Oxford admissions process and fully support the statement.”