Dr Jonathan Leader Maynard writes on the problem of diversity in Oxbridge admissions

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Jonathan Leader Maynard has written an article for the Times Higher Education supplement (2 November) entitled ‘[O]nly radical school reform will significantly widen access’, which responds accusations of institutional bias based on race and class as a result of Labour MP David Lammy’s recent release of Oxbridge data.

Jonathan writes, “Having been an undergraduate admissions tutor at the University of Oxford for five years, I was depressed by both the data and the difficulty that Lammy had in acquiring it. His efforts provide a much-needed impetus for re-examination of admissions procedures.”

“But,” he adds, “his diagnosis is too simple. Evidence of disparities between the profiles of students offered places and the national population does not, by itself, tell us anything about the actual source of those disparities. […]”

“We can admit only those who actually apply, so one has to start by comparing offer statistics with application statistics. But Lammy’s data do not list the ethnic breakdown of applicants. Hence, they cannot tell us whether the lower numbers of black students entering Oxford (1.5 per cent of all admissions, compared with the 3 per cent of the overall UK population that is black) reflects institutional bias, as opposed to black students’ relative reluctance to apply or lower A-level attainment. Wider evidence suggests, though, that the deep educational disadvantages faced by black British students at school level are crucial.”

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