Over 100 MPs call for Oxbridge to end ‘social apartheid’
82% of offers are made to students in the top two social classes
Over 100 MPs have written to the heads of Oxford and Cambridge University, demanding urgent reforms to end a ‘social apartheid’ in the two universities’ admissions process.
The letter, organised by Labour MP David Lammy, criticises the two universities for continuing to take the ‘overwhelming majority’ of their students from ‘a small minority in terms of both geography and socio-economic background’, and urges them to ‘take the initiative in ‘reaching out to parts of our society and our country that are under-represented.’
It also states: ‘Much more work is required to find the most talented students who may be from disadvantaged backgrounds, lack the confidence or support networks to apply to Oxbridge or live in parts of the country and attend schools that do not traditionally send many students to Oxbridge.’
Data from a Freedom of Information request last week found that the social diversity of students at Oxbridge has decreased, despite Cambridge alone spending an annual £5 million on access initiatives. Currently, 82% of offers are made to students from the top two social classes, compared to 79% in 2010 and 77% from 2004-2009.
Figures also reveal that more Oxbridge offers are made to applicants from four Home Counties than the whole of the north. 48% of their students come from London and the South East, compared to just 11% from the Midlands, 15% from the North and 2% from Wales.
Mr Lammy said that this demonstrates Oxford and Cambridge Universities were letting down ‘huge swathes’ of the country: ‘For far too long Oxbridge have been long on rhetoric when it comes to improving access and widening participation, but very short indeed on action and this needs to change urgently.’
Professor Stephen Toope, the recently-appointed vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University, responded to the letter by saying: 'Our excellence is built on diversity. We recognise that more hard work is required, but a great deal has already changed in our outreach work, in the financial support we give students, and in our admissions process – particularly over the last 10 years.’
‘I believe that all universities, including Cambridge, have a duty to be open to people from all backgrounds, irrespective of race, class and origin.'
He stated that the statistics from the latest round of admissions demonstrate the highest acceptance of state-educated students in 35 years, and claims that shows ‘we are making real and sustained progress.’