Politicians do love to share their views on Oxbridge admissions. This time around David Cameron has taken a pop at Oxford over the number of black students, using some pretty forthright language.
“I saw figures the other day that showed that only one black person went to Oxford last year. I think that is disgraceful, we have got to do better than that.”
It’s a startling statistic — and almost true. Cameron would be advised to check his facts before picking this fight.
Here’s a rebuttal from Oxford, which they put out a few weeks ago:
On a related point, much has been made of the ‘one black Caribbean student’ admitted to Oxford in 2009. Not one black student, but one black Caribbean student – in one year, looking at only UK candidates, and only undergraduates.
As Oxford has pointed out before, this is very selective use of data. In that year, there were actually 27 black UK students admitted to Oxford. Beyond black students alone, 22% of Oxford’s overall student body is non-white (BME).
As this BBC story shows, Oxford have put some effort into attracting black students over the years. Their campaign has not been a resounding success. But the issues are certainly more complicated than Cameron suggests.
UPDATE: Oxford have put out an official response to Cameron’s comments. Apparently they’ve been in touch with Downing Street to correct his figures. Full statement below:
“The figure quoted by the Prime Minister is incorrect and highly misleading – and we have been in touch with Downing Street to correct the figures the Prime Minister cites.
“The figure quoted only refers to UK undergraduates of black Caribbean origin for a single year of entry, when in fact that year Oxford admitted 41 UK undergraduates with black backgrounds. In that year a full 22% of Oxford’s total student population came from ethnic minority backgrounds
“In fact, the ‘only one black student at Oxford’ story is a misleading one from last year, and refers specifically to ONLY UK undergraduates of black Caribbean descent who gave us information about their ethnicity – NOT all black students, or even all black undergraduates. This was for a single year only – entry 2009.
“In fact the full picture tells a different story: in that year 27 black British undergraduate students got a place at Oxford in 2009, as did 14 of mixed backgrounds including black heritage. And that’s just picking from one year without even mentioning postgraduate students and those from overseas. 19% of all our students currently (undergraduate and postgraduate) are from ethnic minorities.”