A diverse mix of students from different backgrounds provides the optimum learning environment. Source: Chakrit Yenti/Shutterstock.com

If you want to study in a diverse environment in the United Kingdom – one of the most renowned countries for higher education on the planet – then Hull, Derby and Edge Hill may be your perfect fit.

According to new analysis from Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), it is not the prestigious universities such as Oxford and Cambridge topping the charts for equality and diversity; in fact, it is less elite institutions.

The rankings put Cambridge, St Andrews, Bristol and Oxford at the bottom of the table based on calculations for admissions of an equal intake of rich and poor students.

Top 10 universities for class equality

  1. Hull
  2. Derby
  3. Edge Hill
  4. Chester
  5. Plymouth College of Art
  6. York St John
  7. Leeds Beckett
  8. Worcester
  9. Anglia Ruskin
  10. Cardiff Metropolitan

Bottom 10 universities for class equality

  1. Cambridge
  2. St Andrews
  3. Bristol
  4. Oxford
  5. Edinburgh
  6. UCL
  7. Durham
  8. Robert Gordon
  9. LSE
  10. Imperial College London

The BBC reported Anglia Ruskin Vice-Chancellor Iain Martin saying that, despite ongoing efforts across the UK to allow equal access to higher education, “we do not have an educational level playing field”.

HEPI director Nick Hillman claimed learning outcomes are significantly improved when students from many different backgrounds study alongside each other.

“This analysis reveals which universities reflect our society best and those which have further to travel,” Hillman said.

“The best way to deliver fairer access to selective institutions is the same as the best way to deliver widening participation overall, which is to provide more places.”

Cambridge University responded to the rankings claiming the data is not representative of the overall picture, focusing primarily on the location of the students as an indicator of wealth.

The spokesperson claimed Cambridge runs outreach programs for disadvantaged groups and is significantly improving its diversity with over 20 percent of students describing themselves as an ethnic minority.

As many universities from the UK’s Russell Group are ranked as having the worst rates of class equality, a spokesperson for the group said its universities were “fully committed to encouraging students from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter and succeed in higher education”.

Cambridge also highlighted the HEPI analysis is reductive, while stating that “widening participation in higher education is a complex issue”.

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