The number of black students attending Oxford University has risen, but a lack of diversity remains across many colleges and courses.
Figures show the proportion of British students from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds admitted last year increased to 22.1% – up from 18.3% the previous year. Last year 3.2% of students awarded places were of Black African or Black Caribbean heritage, compared to 2.6% in 2018.
But 12 of the prestigious university’s colleges have accepted five or fewer black undergrads over the past three years. Between 2017 and 2019, there were five or fewer black UK-domiciled students on 13 of Oxford’s largest courses.
Over the three years, there was one UK black student admitted to biology, two for history and politics and none for geography, according to the university’s Undergraduate Admissions Report. The institution had planned to publish the figures earlier this month, but it postponed the release in light of ‘world events’.
Black Lives Matter protests have been sparked around the world ever since the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after pleading for air as a white police officer knelt on his neck in Minneapolis, USA.
The movement has increased pressure on universities to decolonise the curriculum, tackle racism and boost diversity on campus. It comes public school Eton College had apologised to Nigerian writer Dillibe Onyeama for the racism he experienced while a student there in the 1960s.’
Headmaster Simon Henderson told the BBC he was ‘appalled’ at how Mr Onyeama had been treated and said the school had ‘made significant strides since’, but had more to do.
Last week, the governing body of Oxford’s Oriel college ‘expressed their wish’ to remove a statue of British imperialist Cecil Rhodes, following fresh protests.
Six black UK students were admitted to the college between 2017-2019.
Admissions statistics also show that the proportion of British state school pupils securing a place at Oxford has increased to a record high of 62.3%, compared to 55.6% five years ago.
The number of students from the UK’s most deprived areas attending the university has risen from 8.6% to 12.2%.
But there still remains a significant regional imbalance, as 49% of UK students admitted to Oxford between 2017 and 2019 came from London and the South East of England.
Only 15% were from the North of England, with just 2.1% admitted from the North East, 4.8% from Yorkshire and Humber and 8.1% from the North West.
Oxford’s vice chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said: ‘The data presented clearly demonstrates steady progress towards diversifying the make-up of our student body.’
The new report also shows getting into Oxford is more competitive than ever, with 23,020 students applying for just 3,300 undergraduate places. In 2019, almost four in five places (2,586) went to UK students.
It comes as the university shares its plans to expand online resources and to run widening access programmes virtually amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
UNIQ, the university’s flagship state school access programme, will run exclusively online this year – and Target Oxbridge, the scheme which helps black students with Oxford applications, will also go online.
Director of undergraduate admissions and outreach at Oxford University Dr Samina Khan said: ‘Expanding our digital resources has been a major priority for the university in recent weeks.
‘Many young people are in the process of making important decisions about their higher education future in the midst of a crisis, and I think it would be deeply unfair for talented students of all backgrounds to lose sight of their ambitions because of the education disruption caused during this time.’
Professor Richardson added: ‘The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the deep education inequalities in our society. We are acutely conscious of its differential impact both on our current students and on those considering applying to Oxford.’
‘Notwithstanding the major challenge of adapting to the constraints posed by the pandemic we fully intend to continue our progress towards ensuring that every talented, academically driven pupil in the country, wherever they come from, sees Oxford as a place for them.’
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