Oxbridge scores low on minorities

Nat Rudarakanchana  - News  Reporter 11 February 2010

Ethnic minority representation at Cambridge and Oxford Universities is still lagging behind other universities, according to recent reports in the BBC and The Guardian.

The Race for Opportunity conducted research which revealed that only 11% of Oxford and 10.5% of Cambridge students are from black, Asian or ethnic minority (BME) backgrounds.

Meanwhile, at LSE and King’s College London, over 40% of students are from BME backgrounds.

Cambridge University later disputed this figure, with a spokesman for the University saying that “15% of full time undergraduates Cambridge for 2008-9 described themselves as being from a non-white ethnic group – well in excess of the 10.5% mis-reported by Race for Opportunity and subsequently by many media outlets.”

The disparity between Oxbridge and other universities may be due to the research including part-time students in the survey, hence skewing figures in favour of institutions close to sizeable urban areas where large BME populations exist.

Jon Beard, the Director of Undergraduate Recruitment at Cambridge University, states that “we are keen to build on our position and considerable efforts are made to attract BME students through initiatives such as GEEMA and student-led organizations within the University, but the figures show quite clearly that we do attract a large proportion of those students who are eligible to apply.”

“There is a real need to ensure that important and necessary research on this subject accurately captures all the issues, such as educational achievement and social and geographic factors.

“Simply suggesting that certain institutions are in some way ‘failing’ without any discussion with those institutions is helpful to no one.”

Mostafa Al-Mossallami the co-chair of the Cambridge University Student Union (CUSU) Black Students Campaign, said “The CUSU Access team and GEEMA do a good job, and the Black Students Campaign has worked extensively to empower ethnic minorities officers at colleges and represent them at CUSU.

“Yet these statistics and reports show that there is a lot of work to be done not only in encouraging students from minority backgrounds to apply, but to show that they can be accommodated once they get here.”

When asked by The Cambridge Student (TCS) how ethnic minorities fare once they reach university, Tuba Omer, former Girton ethnic minorities officer, said: “I found the support from CUSU representatives lacking.

“The CU Black Student Campaign does a good job of organising events such as film nights, speaker events and discussion groups, but it would be helpful if they worked together with the colleges when organising this.”

Ashmit Thakral, a first year mathematics student at Trinity College, Oxford, has also said that there are “a wide range of ethnic minorities societies available at Oxford.

“However, most of this diversity is seen only during fresher’s week, with the number of events organized by societies slowly dwindling as term progresses.”

Nat Rudarakanchana  – News  Reporter