Cherwell

No evidence of Oxford discrimination, says former admissions chief

Baroness Deech speaking in the House of Lords.

A former chair of admissions at Oxford University has hit back at criticism of the country’s top universities.

Baroness Deech – a former principal of St Anne’s College – said there was “no evidence of discrimination” by Oxbridge against black students.

Earlier this term, Cherwell analysis showed that more pupils from Westminster school made it into Oxford in 2017 than black British students.

Baroness Deech argued claims of discrimination are not supported by the figures, since the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) students who received offers was proportional to the BME population.

She argued, “the problem is uneven distribution” among prestigious universities, colleges and subjects.

She told Parliament: “There are colleges in London where white students are in the minority. Is anyone going to complain there are too many students of one race or religion?”

She continued: “Impressive, expensive outreach work is damaged by the impression they discriminate against black students.

“In no other country would a senior politician speak like this about a top university, thereby undermining its reputation.”

While not naming David Lammy MP – who has spearheaded a campaign attacking Oxford’s record on access – in her speech, she did observe “how misguided most of that conversation was”.

Responding to her comments, a government spokesperson said the the Office for Students will challenge more selective institutions to make progress in broadening their admissions.

He said the government “shares the concerns” expressed by Baroness Deech that recent media coverage of Oxbridge admissions will undermine their outreach work.

Last year, Baroness Deech faced widespread criticism after describing vegetarians who eat “fake meat” as “transgender vegetarians”.