« Never mind Twitter's strange trends: Wikileaks on course to become most "liked" source of investigative journalism in the world | Main | Follow-up on the Oxbridge admissions debate »


James MacAonghus

The Guardian should have done more rigorous statistical analysis on this. It does seem like maybe Black and Asians are under-represented, but at these low levels that may be just a statistical anomaly. In any case to have proper analysis, they need to look through the data on how students get to the application process in the first place, what they apply to etc. The conclusion might still be the same, but at least it would be more robust.

And as you suggest, but the Guardian is unlikely to agree, allowance needs to be made for intentional elitism - you can't compare Oxbridge to UK universities as a whole when the latter includes the University of West Ruislip.


James- indeed. I would have liked to see the Guardian dig into the substance of these claims and see whether they stood up to a proper kicking of the tyres, not just repeated David Lammy's one-sided agenda.


Compare the data you link to http://www.ox.ac.uk/about_the_university/facts_and_figures/undergraduate_admissions_statistics/ethnic_origin.html
and the wikipedia page on Ethnic groups in the UK

Oxford has has a high ratio of non-white applications to white applicants than the general UK population, and even {all groups with the word 'black'} are in a smaller proportion, it's still roughly equivalent to the proportion in the UK.

All which suprised me!

Anon again

Damn and hellfire, that comment from me has so many typos that it's nearly unreadable - sorry all. Just add a few words as you see fit when reading and you can spin it anyway you want!


"If the 221 "black Caribbean", "black African" and "black other" Oxford applicants had achieved the university's average acceptance rate of 26% there would still have been only 58 to go around. As it stands 25 achieved a place"

I'm not defending the sensationalism in the Guardian article but doesn't that statistic alone kind of prove their point. Black applicants achieved well below the university's average acceptance rate.


There's a reason black people don't apply to Oxbridge - and that matches with the fact that women are continually biased against in Oxbridge marking too.

Oxbridge does not only let in the "best"- it lets in only those who it believes will fit into the image it wants to create as the "best".

And yes, I studied at Oxford last year - and it wasn't about academic merit or brilliance - it was all about creating this false personna on how everyone was supposedly going to rule the world in the future.


I'm not defending the sensationalism in the Guardian article but doesn't that statistic alone kind of prove their point. Black applicants achieved well below the university's average acceptance rate.

The statistic simply shows that fewer than average secured access to a university that is known to have tougher academic standards than other Universities.

Whether that is because of bias by the decision makers, or because secondary education is failing to educate a section of society to the required standard is not proven by the statistics.

All the statistics do is raise the question - they do not provide an answer.

James MacAonghus

uksceptic, at these low levels that may be perfectly within significance levels; or at least not so far off that it doesn't merit a news story, especially if you think of the other issues around schooling, geography, parents, incomes, etc

I don't know enough statistics to give an answer though.

Sophia Collins

You make some good, and fair, points about the misuse of stats here. But I can't agree with your conclusion about Oxford being a meritocracy and the problem being simply down to poor education in the state system and in some parts of the country.

Students at private schools who send many students to Oxbridge have many subtle advantages in the selection process. For a start, they are coached and advised by teachers who often attended Oxbridge themselves, who know the selection procedures, and perhaps the admissions staff.

This being the case, it's not a meritocracy, where the over-representation of private school students simply reflects that they are BETTER. I'd argue those students have had more help, so it's not surprising they have more success in applying. Some (very bright and able) students are facing far more of a challenge.

As the Guardian article admits, one issue is that black applicants are overwhelmingly applying for the most over-subscribed courses. Perhaps better advice from their schools would avoid this. Perhaps their schools don't have the same knowledge of what courses you're likely to get into as staff at Eton and Westminster are able to give.

I don't think it's good enough for Oxford to shrug its shoulders and say 'it's not our fault, guv'. It would be fairly straightforward for them to offer advice on which courses are most over-subscribed, and perhaps mentoring on the application process.

Oxford puts a considerable amount of effort into 'outreach', but it's not clear that its resources are deployed where they would be most useful.

William Prestlake

First of all, why is David Lammy publishing this article? Surely his time would be better spent getting the people he cares so much about to learn to read and write so that they can apply to Oxford and then get a place on their own merits?

The education system in the UK has been completely destroyed by violent socialists, who believe that education is a right and not a good. This is the key idea behind their bankrupt ideology.

These people are not able to run schools, are not able to create them, or anything else for that matter. Their only power is to destroy, and they have been very successful at doing just that.

Their infantile race bating does nothing but damage the self image of the very people they are trying to 'help' but of course, their aim is not to help anyone, but to create a constituency that will consistently vote for them.

People like Katherine Birbalsingh:


Afte having spent years as a deluded socialist can finally see what these people are really like, and now of course, she is being attacked for 'being used' by 'blacks'. These people are their own worst enemies, and with friends like David Lammy on their side they will never and should never get anywhere.

Oxford and Cambridge and all the other Universities should remove all quotas and should not collect any statistics on 'race'. They should act only as places where merit gets you a place. The act of collecting stats plays into the hands of racists and socialists and frankly, enough is enough.

And just in case you are shocked at the fact that education is not a right, you need to read this book:


Learn what rights are, what they are not and why education, healthcare, food and the internet are not rights, but goods.


Yes, I think that the Guardian article used the statistics to suit it's message. I do, however think it has a valid point; Oxbridge is elitist. For me, it's less to do with race and more of a 'it's who you know, not what you know' situation. Not for everybody, but for a large proportion of their intake. This has to change. If they want to become a private university who can take whoever they please, let them. But no more money from us. If you want public funds in your coffers then you must pick fairly, not because someone's father is a golf buddy.


"If the 221 "black Caribbean", "black African" and "black other" Oxford applicants had achieved the university's average acceptance rate of 26% there would still have been only 58 to go around. As it stands 25 achieved a place"

What the stats don't tell us is how many students were offered a place and then failed to make their grades.

James MacAonghus

I wonder why this issue has been one of the most discussed on virtual economics; are we jumping to defend a beloved institution? Are we that rare breed of people who don't want elitism forcefully diluted in any way?

And are there any black commenters? If there are, that makes virtualeconomics massively biased in favour of black people and under-representative of white people.

And what become of her new straw hat that should have come to me?


a friend of mine is a teacher at a well placed private school for oxbridge candidates. he constantly rails about their "connections" with admissions tutors.

re FOI, perhaps Lammy wanted individual college data, which doesnt appear to be provided in the link here. Also i suspect the key phrase is "Black British" so comparisons with portugal and mauritius are misleading.


IanVisits - I understood the comparison was made against the University's own admission percentage not the national average. So I think my point stands on this count. And yes statistics raise the question, thats kind of my point.

James MacAonghus - You're completely right I hadn't considered that the small numbers involved might mean this is statistically insignificant.

A lot of people now coming on here saying that Oxbridge is elitist but so far the evidence has been anecdotal. It stands to reason that they would have more students from privileged backgrounds because of the better education that background brings. What would point to elitism would be a comparison of the acceptance percentages for various backgrounds that also accounts for academic ability; In other words if I come from a poor background but have the same qualifications as someone from a privileged background do I have the same chance of getting in?

That would be an interesting set of data to examine.


If you take 2 pupils, one from a state school and one from a private school with equal results, the one from the state school is probably smarter. Private schools have all the advantages which means a state school kid achieving the same results is smarter because they did it without those advantages. If a lot of the academics at oxford/cambridge are graduates themselves, they will never understand this. Hunger matters more.

The educated elite are a disappointment because they don't have that hunger. They go on to jobs taking slices of billion dollar deals as lawyers and financiers when they themselves should be making those deals. They just don't have that same drive in the right direction. To get to and through Oxbridge as a state school student, you need individual drive and it's individual drive that builds businesses. That's the difference and that is why Oxbridge should take in more state school students and give them that added confidence.


isn't the problem more about that the percentage of BME and state school applicants offered a place is much lower than white and private school applicants? All of those applicants will have a comparable academic record - A's at A-Level, good GCSEs etc. So you can't blame the different levels of place offers on problems with 'state education' (you can blame the different numbers of applicants on that if you like).

In my view, the key to this is the state vs private school divide, rather than race. If Oxbridge was proportionate in offering places to state and private school students (93% vs 7% - it's actually more like 60% v 40%), the atmosphere within the universities would change so as to make it more welcoming for state school students - the racial mix would follow that.


Not only are the 2009 statistics available from the front page of the University website (although the page referenced in the post was last edited on 7 December, so one can't tell whether it was put up today in response to this story), a minute's Google searching (e.g. "university of oxford undergraduate admissions statistics 2003") reveals equivalent statistics all the way back to 1990:


also from the University website, and which has been there since at least 29 April 2010.



See www.parliament.uk/briefingpapers/commons/lib/research/.../snsg-00616.pdf, specifically section 1.2, paragraph 2. It offers some such evidence.


James MacAonghus: the difference is statistically significant. You can do a rough calculation for it online easily enough, using something like http://www.graphpad.com/quickcalcs/contingency1.cfm. Putting in figures for black applicants rejected (194) and accepted (27), and white applicants rejected (6062) and accepted (2316), it gives a P-value of less than 0.0001. A P-value of less than 0.05 is usually considered statistically significant.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...