Comment Writer Jonny Isaacs reflects on mental health and race in the wake of recent mass shootingsWritten by Jonny Isaacs on 22nd November 2017
Prejudice in University Admissions Needs To Stop
Comment Writer Lily Haugh explores elitism and prejudice at Oxbridge and other Russell Group universities, arguing that it needs to end
British society is changing.
We are the land of diversity in many ways including ethnicity, class and culture. Alongside this, leftist pressures are gaining momentum, in the debatably unconvincing form of Jeremy Corbyn, against predominantly capitalist governance.
So, why is Oxbridge not changing? Why are these world-leading hotbeds of innovation and discovery, whose research is propelling us into the future, stagnating in the elitism of the past?
“All at once, I understood the 13% of state school teachers not endorsing Oxbridge to their students for fear that they would not fit in
Even at a free-for-all Cambridge Taster day, I was struck squarely by the ominous class barrier, finding myself surrounded by the stock of private education. Clearly, these students had begun their Oxbridge preening before even reciting the alphabet.
Despite having attended a top south-east grammar school, their intimidatingly impressive display of confidence and classical learning had me sinking lower in my chair. All at once, I understood the 13% of state school teachers not endorsing Oxbridge to their students for fear that they would not fit in.
Is it any wonder that the parents of four out of five Oxbridge students are in prestigious careers, such as medicine and law?
“We are just talking about basic representation of the masses, most of whom do not own a Porsche
Efforts to fight these figures are clearly either non-existent, or flummoxing miserably, with offers made to higher class prospective students increasing from 79% to 82% at Oxford, and to 81% at Cambridge.
Tottenham MP, David Lammy, vocalizes our horror that a ‘privileged background is still the key to getting through the Oxbridge admissions process.’ We are not calling for a Lenin-style revolution here, we are just talking basic representation of the masses, most of whom do not own a Porsche.
It is not only class but ethnic disparity that is causing contention. Mr Lammy, the apparent spokesman of brutal truths, declared the ‘social apartheid’ that has an unacceptable hold over places at the UK’s top universities. This radical accusation may not seem so excessive considering the 16 Oxbridge colleges, in 2015 alone, offering no places for black applicants.
But, it is easy to penalize Oxbridge, whose intense publicity overshadows the shortcomings of other universities. In fact, Durham’s intake of state school students was much lower than Cambridge’s in 2017.
It seems that the whole Russell Group family (I’m afraid this implicates Birmingham too) is shockingly exclusive, accepting only 6% from the most disadvantaged groups. So Oxford and Cambridge are not the only criminals.
In fact, there is a worse social criminal at large here: the education system. It is this system that creates injustice from the start of a child’s education. Immediately, state schooling is defined by geo-economic zone, which inevitably defines prospects by class and background, as opposed to ability. It is all too easy to let universities bear the brunt of the blame, as opposed to unlocking the Pandora’s box of wider issues.
“The solution, at face value, is simple enough: Universities... get it together
Pandora’s box aside, to an extent, universities could be more proactive in widening their doors to mounting diversity. They should be making a more conscious effort to receive students from every reach of life, bringing new ideas, perspectives and beliefs into the learning sphere. Not only does it benefit academia, but promotes understanding and acceptance between those who will go on to hold important, often leadership level, jobs.
So the solution, at face value, is simple enough: Universities... get it together.
However, if you peek briefly beneath the surface you will lose yourself in a matrix of wider problems, with an even more complicated matrix of solutions. Efforts are being made, with Oxbridge investing five million annually to transcend class and ethnic inequities.
Can this reform the entire UK education system? I do not think so. But it is not just universities that need to adapt.