The issue of the lack of diversity in admissions to Oxbridge has been a contentious topic in recent years. Oxford University, in particular, has been plagued with criticism and damaging media coverage over the matter. A Freedom of Information request, obtained by the Financial Times, revealed that some Oxbridge colleges admitted no Black British students between 2012 and 2016, but Oxford released its own data that showed that as many as one in four of its colleges did not admit a single Black British student between 2015 and 2017.
The pressure has certainly been ramped up on Oxbridge as a result of such shocking statistics. The Universities Minister, Sam Gymiah, has said that Oxford and Cambridge both face being fined if they continue to fail to admit students from a wider range of backgrounds.
Now there is a new twist as it has emerged that some white middle-class Oxford University rejects have taken to demanding an explanation from the university about the reasons for their unsuccessful applications.
Applicants concern they ‘don’t fit’ new drive for diversity
It doesn’t need explaining why Oxford colleges are striving to see their diversity drive pay off. The bad publicity that the university has received over the issue has been extremely damaging and, to put it simply, the institution has reached the point of no return – it has to show an improvement.
However, there is a limit to how many places any college can offer, and increasingly applicants (who fit the traditional profile of Oxford students) are demanding answers if their application is knocked-back. In short, they are concerned that they might be being rejected because they don’t fit into the new drive for a more diverse student profile.
Are middle class applicants being squeezed out?
Applicants are now worried that the university’s drive (in the face of considerable pressure) to admit more undergraduates from disadvantaged backgrounds and ethnic minorities is causing a squeeze on white middle class applicants, effectively pushing them out of the admissions process.
Oxford University welcomes applicants requesting feedback about any aspect of the applications process, but the nature of such requests have changed – with some even threatening legal action over a college’s decision not to offer a place.
It would appear that there has been a growing demand for specific details about individual applications, such as how their test scores stand in relation to successful applicants, or information about what notes tutors made during the interview process.
Regardless of whether the unsuccessful applicants have grounds for complaint or not, the whole business is a decidedly unsavoury addition to an already disturbing story. As if criticisms of Oxford University being institutionally racist aren’t bad enough, accusations of latent racism against some middle class applicants are now being levelled. One way or another, it is an issue that Oxford University would do well to clear up as soon as possible.
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