Dear Oxford & Cambridge, fix your 'social apartheid' - MPs
Not very diverse. Source: Reuters/Dylan Martinez.

UK Members of Parliament have written a letter to the heads of both prestigious institutions to call for an end to their student admissions practices that they accuse as causing “social apartheid”.

The MPs slammed the two schools for admitting an “overwhelming majority” of their students from a “small minority in terms of both geography and socio-economic background” in the letter organised by Labour MP David Lammy and signed by over 100 MPs, as reported by The Independent.

Oxbridge is urged to “take the initiative” to reach out to talented students in the “parts of our society and our country that are under-represented”.

The letter goes: “Much more work is required to find the most talented students who may be from disadvantaged backgrounds, lack the confidence or support networks to apply to Oxbridge or live in parts of the country and attend schools that do not traditionally send many students to Oxbridge.

The letter follows a finding published last week by Lammy, which through Freedom of Information requests, revealed:

    • 82 percent of Oxbridge offers currently go to those in the top two social classes. In 2010, the figure was only 79 percent and in 2004-09, it was 77 percent.
    • Not a single offer was made to black A-Level applicants by 13 Oxford colleges, over a period of six years. Only 3 out of its 32 colleges offered a spot to a black A-Level applicant every year between 2010 to 2015.
    • The location of the applicants were found to disproportionately come from London and the South East, making up almost half of its students (48 percent). Only 15 percent are from the North, followed by 11 percent from the Midlands and two percent from Wales.

Responding to the letter, Cambridge’s vice-chancellor Stephen Toope said all universities have a duty to ensure equal access, regardless of their race, class and origin.

“Our excellence is built on diversity. We recognise that more hard work is required, but a great deal has already changed in our outreach work, in the financial support we give students, and in our admissions processes – particularly over the last 10 years,” Toope said, adding that Cambridge has been making “real and sustained progress” as well as investing millions of pounds in giving bursaries to poor students.

Oxford says it will respond to the letter soon, according to a spokesman, but said it is as concerned about the  “uneven access to Oxford” as the MPs are and agreed that it had “a great deal of work to do”.

“We are committing more money and people than ever before to addressing these problems, including opening our latest outreach centre in Sunderland next month,” the spokesperson said.

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