Oxford Blues Whites and Blacks

Baroness Deech

Some years ago I was chair of the committee in overall charge of Oxford University’s admissions policy and I spent a great deal of my time in outreach activity.  In fact, Oxford has spent many £millions over the years on attracting students from all sorts of backgrounds to apply to Oxford.  The result is, according to the latest figures, that there are about 17,000 potential students applying for 3000 vacancies.  Success in attracting candidates inevitably brings with it disappointment for many more.  I deplore the ill informed and damaging comments made today by the Prime Minister about his own university, giving the impression that either it discriminates against black candidates or that it is not doing enough to attract them.  In no other country would a senior politician speak like this about a top national university, thereby undermining its reputation and all the efforts made to open up access.  In fact, nothing gives lecturers more pleasure than discovering and nurturing talent in students from less privileged homes.  After all, they want the brightest to share their own passion for their academic subjects, and the success of their students is their success too.

Mr. Cameron got his facts absolutely wrong and should apologise.  19% of all Oxford students are BME, whereas the percentage in the general population is about 14%. Nationally BME students are overrepresented in the university population.  But I do not believe that there should be any concept such as “overrepresentation” or “underrepresentation” in considering the makeup of university students.  Is anyone going to complain that there are “too many” students from one race or religion? The notion of quotas should be alien, for restrictions on the entry of certain groups to higher education is a hallmark of totalitarian regimes.

Oxford can only accept the students who apply.  Their most recent figures show that 40 Black Caribbean students applied, but there were 214 Chinese, 208 Pakistani, 533 Indian and Bangladeshi and 201 Asian applicants. Nationally, 452 black students achieved AAA or better at A-level that year out of 4650 BME 3A students. A futher obstacle is that a disproportionate number of BME students apply for the courses at Oxford that are the most oversubscribed: Medicine, Economics & Management and Maths. 28.8% of all black applicants for entry to Oxford 2009 applied for Medicine, compared to 7% of the white applicants. Chances would be better if the BME applicants considered other sciences and humanities in greater numbers. 

In the end, everything comes down to family and school influences, as I discovered when I used to visit schools to encourage applications.  There were too many teachers who were anti-Oxford and discouraged their students, and there were many students who did not want to go away from home, or whose families discouraged them from aiming higher than their parents.  The cost of living away from home in university residences is in fact more of a burden than tuition fees, but Oxford is very supportive as far as finances go and it is unlikelythat an undergraduate would be allowed to drop out of  Oxford for purely financial reasons. £6.6m is spent on bursaries to help students there. We all know that life chances may be determined at a very early age indeed and that there are problems with our state schooling.

Gordon Brown got it wrong about Oxford in 2000 when he criticised it for not accepting Laura Spence (Magdalen College had 22 applications for Medicine and there was room for only 5, some of whom were from state schools.) Surely David Cameron does not want to be another Gordon Brown?

17 comments for “Oxford Blues Whites and Blacks

  1. ladytizzy
    12/04/2011 at 10:30 pm

    I concur.

  2. Carl.H
    12/04/2011 at 11:25 pm

    I have always maintained that differentiating is a form of discrimination, beit black, white, yellow, female or other surely IF everyone is to be equal then one should not maintain a system that counts differences.

    Ethnic differences are very little to do with colour of skin, often to do with culture. A black baby COULD be born to white parents and vice versa. Does having white skin prevent me from being black ?

    Are second generation British Albanians, Latvians, Kosovans underrepresented at Oxford ? How many scousers, geordies or eastenders got in ?

    “19% of all Oxford students are BME, whereas the percentage in the general population is about 14%. “

    Does this mean the system is discriminatory against Britih whites ? Or does the system expect it not to work in reverse ?

    The system tends to use the statistics to show what IT wants but when Sir Paul Condon used the stats to show most muggings in some areas of London were black crime everyone screamed discrimination. The fact is by differentiating we are buying into discrimination.

    I fully expect Oxford and infact the entire system to be one based on merit and not quotas. Skin colouration, sexual organs, sexual orientation, number of limbs, have nothing whatsoever to do with another person being a qualified human being and there by merit.

    I have no doubt that some of David Camerons best friends are black…..I just have friends.

    • Twm O'r Nant
      13/04/2011 at 6:26 pm

      I have always maintained that differentiating is a form of discrimination
      Carl falls in to the “Oxford is best” trap, which is based only on the longevity of the place, and not its achievements, in the sciences for example.

      I was delighted at the proper democratic representation of the recent labour cabinets
      in their university/educational origins.

      The Cameron/Deech axis is merely concerned with elitism, and its pepetutation.

      On the question of “black”, more or less any word has either a thoroughly negative or a thoroughly positive connotation, from the mouth of a lawyer, so there is no need to worry about that.

      I have heard children recently saying “Evil!” and “wicked” and making it sound veritably good, so lawyers have no monopoly either.

      Lady Tizzy would agree with anybody.

      • Carl.H
        13/04/2011 at 8:02 pm

        “Carl falls in to the “Oxford is best” trap

        Good trap ! I never noticed nor can I see where I fell ??????? -shrugs-

  3. MilesJSD
    milesjsd
    13/04/2011 at 9:37 am

    Baroness Deech goes overboard in the wrong direction.

    1. Let us be doing (and saying) the Right things, and for the Right reasons.

    2, Let us be doing the 3 principles of good-communication, honest-argumentation, and life-experience recording and reporting:
    (1) Be clear about each facet of the case
    (2) Be charitable by recognising the intentions of other participants in the matter at hand and especially of the needs and affordable-hows of those who will be most affected by the outcome(s);
    (3) Be self-corrigible wherever you have been shown wrong, exaggerative, or omissive.

    (.1) To be clear, charitable and self-corrigible, all in one breath, is not difficult.
    Apply ‘Right thing for Right reason’ to two inflammatory instances
    (a) Saddam Hussein who rightly stood out against The West, especially against the USA, for over-consuming resources particularly non-renewable Oil from other countries than their own;
    but who got lost by making it an Iraqi-individual-nation-state issue, and worse by making it his own inflated-ego bid for increased personal-power.
    Right Thing: wrong Reason.

    (2) David Cameron : similarly David (I use the personal-name awarely since he appears to be trying to be honest-to-God and to lead from a number of difficultly-obscure and unexploded-bomb crucifix-positions that none other Leader is attempting to advocate in, one other of which is currently his ‘Britain realises its past Colonial greeds and disabling-malfeasances that partly-disadvantaged a number of subject nations (sic)(I am deliberately not admitting ‘nation-states’) around the world):
    Right thing,
    Possibly wrong reason,
    Most certainly wrong (I.e.NIL) back-up.

    so now we must come to the apparently and comparitively minor matter of ‘egalitarian-education-by-all-British-colleges, of all high A-level achievers, at affordable costs'; and we need to face up to and exhaustively scrutinise more than just the ‘racial percentages’ content;

    and we need to be both cognisant and valuatively-integrative of underlying other contexts and unresolved conflicts:

    (to be concluded later today Wednesday 13 April2011)
    JSDM.

    • MilesJSD
      milesjsd
      13/04/2011 at 1:31 pm

      3. That the UN UNDP Human Development Index (Longevity x Knowledge x Wealth = 1.0000, aggregatively) is worse than useless to, and is in effect manifoldly-destructive of, individual-human-development
      (which latter constructive formulation it does not deliver and neither does UK, EU, USA, China, India, Brazil, Japan, nor any other nation-state) (to the best of public and my knowledge)is a cause of worldwide ignorance, and worse of neglectful governance and lopsided-training top-to-bottom and worldwide;

      in turn which is causative of a
      (i) a dearth of education-for-life 75% timeframe (which would be effectively ‘owned’ by Every-one of The People),
      and
      (ii) a glut of training-for-jobs 25% timeframe in both schools and universities (which has already and longterm been owned and dictated by Employers, Governments, and Crooks).

      (to be be further concluded today W130411). 1331W13. JSDM.

  4. Twm O'r Nant
    13/04/2011 at 9:54 am

    The result is, according to the latest figures, that there are about 17,000 potential students applying for 3000 vacancies. Success in attracting candidates inevitably brings with it disappointment for many more.

    There is a foolish obsession with Oxford and Cambridge in these islands, worse than the doctors’ surgery. Imperial College is rather better.

    I noticed the other day whilst musing that the unfortunate school I attended for one year in Wiltshire, shares this obsession, saying that they have 25 conditional places at Oxford or Cambridge. you may be quite sure that only 3 of those will pass their GCSEs.

    If they said they had 25 conditional places at Imperial college it would make a real impression, and not need the likes of the noble baroness to go round pushing it,like a hard drug.

    Imperial college sells itself.

  5. Bedd Gelert
    13/04/2011 at 7:42 pm

    More ostrich-like nonsense from Baroness Deech, I’m afraid.

    “Oxford can only accept the students who apply.”

    The whole point is that the game is tilted in favour of people who ‘know the system’ or the ‘unwritten rules'[whatever they are] or have family connections.

    You mention the ‘loading’ of applications for certain subjects, but this post is the first I have read about this – so how on earth are students to know this ??

    Is this information advertised on their websites, so that students from ALL BACKGROUNDS have an equal chance and equal knowledge of the ‘rules of the game’ ??

    Are the outdated and antiquated traditions of these institutions going to be something which white, middle-class people feel more at home with than urban black youth ? Or at least feel less alienated by ?

    Then maybe they need to be dropped, changed or modernised. The fact that the BME ratio is higher than in the British population is a red-herring, as the figure is skewed up by foreign students. Nothing wrong with that, but it does not accurately represent the chances of black British youth getting in.

    Of course, the fact that we have a crap state sector in this country, as highlighted by Katharine Birbalsingh, is NOT the problem of Oxbridge colleges – but many of the other problems are in their purview, and they are simply not doing enough to change it.

    So for the PM to give them a much-needed, and long overdue, kick up the backside to shake them out of their complacency, is well within his remit, because for heaven’s sake, if David Cameron cannot stand up to these vested interests, who on earth can ??

    • Baroness Deech
      Baroness Deech
      14/04/2011 at 9:34 pm

      Paranoia, Bedd Gelert. Every detail that any potential student needs to know about admission, and a whole lot more, is available on the Oxford University website. This includes statistics about the subjects. There is no need for connections or inside knowledge, merely sufficient curiosity to look up Oxford University on the internet.

  6. MilesJSD
    milesjsd
    13/04/2011 at 9:47 pm

    4. With the World’s Language namely English being polluted, corrupted, spin-doctored, and paralysed of leaderfulness & constructivity by its very owners namely The English Social Establishment, the British Political & Governance Sector, The Education, Universities & Schooling Sector, the Media, and The English People themselves,

    how long is the ‘successful’ international job-training result being ‘achieved’ by British universities likely to

    firstly satisfy the World’s Peoples’ Need for a shared-language that is clear, true, and honest-to-God in the face of ‘unfinished-history sharing’ and of both individual-human-development and aggregate-human-development needs & affordable hows ?

    secondly wash as a desirable language for Life-Educational purposes ?
    and

    thirdly cost-effectively fill the need for a world-wide-cost-efficient Business, Economic, Political, Governance, Method III friendly cooperative needs & affordable-hows problem-solving, Health & Wellbeing-Building, and Practical-Philosophy language ?
    ————-
    5. Other Factors (to be opened under a similar later Blog).

    (Comment for W130411 concluded).

    ============
    2147W13April2011.JSDM.

  7. Twm O'r Nant
    14/04/2011 at 6:51 pm

    Gordon Brown got it wrong about Oxford in 2000 when he criticised it for not accepting Laura Spence

    Being the former chancellor of a Scottish university he was in all likelihood knocking the university mentioned by the Baroness, for the pleasure of a good and proper nocking.

    Imperial college continues to be the best financed and sponsored university in the UK, Gordon Brown’s university and Oxford alike.

    The first Fortrans computer was built there too.

  8. Twm O'r Nant
    14/04/2011 at 6:58 pm

    http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/aboutimperial

    Gordon Brown got it wrong about Oxford in 2000 when he criticised it for not accepting Laura Spence

    Being the former chancellor of a Scottish university he was in all likelihood knocking the university mentioned by the Baroness, for the pleasure of a good and proper nocking.

    Imperial college continues to be the best financed and sponsored university in the UK, Gordon Brown’s university and Oxford alike.

    The first Fortrans computer was built there too.

    Laura Spence would have been lucky if she went to Imperial instead, but that is unlikely isn’t it?

  9. maude elwes
    15/04/2011 at 1:16 pm

    David Cameron should be ashamed of himself. Anyone who knows Oxford and the colleges, and he does as he was an Oxford grad, knows full well it is not even close to racist. Not then and not now.

    And anyone who believes it is, should drive there and take a look. Oxford would be so pleased to be able to find more ‘black’ students as they are full of Asians.

    What they are really saying is, black, West Indian young people are few there as they come from schools that cannot teach them how to speak, read or do much else. And they certainly will not be guided to seek a place at Oxford. Because that would betray the teachers political bent, which is to bring Oxford to it’s knees.

    And how I know is this, a person I know very well is a young black girl of West Indian descent. She is brilliant. Now has a Master in Physics. She was told not to apply to Oxford because her mum could not afford the lifestyle she would have to sustain being there. And that she would feel out of place. So, instead, she applied in the town she lived in. Which is a great pity. Oxford would have been very proud of her.

  10. Twm O'r Nant
    16/04/2011 at 8:20 am

    knows full well it is not even close to racist. Not then and not now.

    Whereas Imperial with its 17,500 undergrads probably has a very large minority from all parts of the world, who are interested in the sciences. If anything they enjoy inverse snobbery, to get the best learning from all comers.

    • maude elwes
      16/04/2011 at 5:17 pm

      How can there be a large minority? What you mean is few white students. Why not say that? Feel it may be construed as racist?

      Imperial, are you serious?

  11. Mark C
    19/04/2011 at 5:01 am

    Where on earth do you get the idea that about 15% of the UK population are from ethnic minorities?! According to the last Census, 7.9% were. I realise that figure will have increased but all other statistics put the figure at between 9 and 10%.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_groups_in_the_United_Kingdom

  12. maude elwes
    19/04/2011 at 1:28 pm

    Where would anyone get the idea there are 15% ethnics in the UK? Could a visit to London be a clue? Or, the fact that most institutions have an over representative count of ethnic minorities within their organizations. Now, that may be a clue to ‘how people get the idea.’

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/graphic/0,5812,1395103,00.html

    And this is an underestimate. The figures do not include thousands of illegals. And those who list as temporary residents. And the position of government is to deny access to the true figure in any way they can. Which of course promotes distrust and more fear.

    http://www.migrationwatchuk.com/briefingPaper/document/95

    http://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:HusBaUg0INAJ:www.bradford2020.com/pride/docs/Section5.doc+ethnic+makeup+of+Bradford&hl=en&gl=uk&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESiNvjPLSS5y9pxE-uATdSQ4m5Tlt_4HNjAi2OP7wOjfj-8dufvk-G6hIGCJFZ02Cx5lrUP2C0-LW230ZqCkszUPHtHngpLkrawo5jJjSFkfk-hDgrkQI49EIq3K5VamemvBZTSa&sig=AHIEtbQwKTCRgR2A6FdRZNPclq9bziHydA

    All of these studies are out of date.

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