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University hits back at claims of regional access disparities

University claims that disadvantaged students in fact perform better in the admissions process

Statistics obtained by MP David Lammy last week show that four out of five students at Oxford and Cambridge are from the top two most privileged economic groups.

The data also shows that Oxford made only 193 more offers to applicants from the whole of Northern England than it did to applicants from the five home-counties, while Cambridge made 334 fewer offers to the whole of the north of England than it did to four of the homecounties.

Lammy said: “Whilst some individual colleges and tutors are taking steps to improve access… in reality many Oxbridge colleges are still fiefdoms of entrenched privilege.”

While nationally about 31% of people are in the top two social income groups, applicants from these two social classes received 81% of offers in 2015.

The figures also reveal the enduring prominance of regional divides, with applicants from London and south-east England receiving 48% of all Oxbridge offers. By contrast, the Midlands received 11% of Oxford offers and 12% of Cambridge offers, while the North West, the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber between them received 15% of Oxford offers and 17% of Cambridge offers.

A University spokesperson told Cherwell: “David Lammy asked for and focused on very small figures from a subset of the students who apply to Oxford (British students taking A levels), when the data we publish online (and we do publish more than any other university) looks at all applicants and can be broken down in many different ways – but always comparing like with like wherever possible.

“Similarly, Lammy has chosen a socioeconomic indicator (NS-SEC class) that most universities (and indeed HESA, the Higher Education Statistical Authority) no longer recognise as being very useful, because it classifies disadvantage by parental job occupation rather than looking at the indicators that most universities track, such as socioeconomically deprived postcodes or areas with very low participation in higher education.”

They also told Cherwell that, while it is “very easy to focus solely on the raw numbers – ie. the total number of students from any given group who end up here… one of the most important things to look at in admissions is the fairness of success rates, not just the raw numbers..

“In our case, figures for the latest admissions round show that students whom we flag in the admissions process as being particularly disadvantaged (because they attended an underperforming school or live in an area of high social deprivation) actually have better success rates when they apply than their more advantaged peer applicants.”

According to a new analysis by Ucas “Oxford and Cambridge are two institutions that do not appear to show systematic or consistent bias against black or less privileged applicants”.

Figures also showed that Wales had fewer than 100 offers from Oxford last year.

Gareth Molyneux, a second-year Wadham student from Wales, told Cherwell: “In general my view was many people in Wales have faced a lot of abuse and jokes from many English people in general, they found that enough of a deterrent to not apply to many English institutions, let alone one as old fashioned as Oxford.”

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