Oxford and Cambridge have been accused of “social apartheid” after it was revealed just how few poor or ethnic minority students the universities admit.
Ex-higher education minister David Lammy called the elite universities “fiefdoms of entrenched privilege”, after figures revealed 13 Oxford colleges failed to offer any black student a place between 2010 and 2015.
The data also showed that Cambridge offered places to more students from four of the Home Counties - 2,953 - than from the entire of the north of England - 2,619 - in the same period.
In each of those years, around a quarter of Cambridge colleges failed to offer any places to black students.
A total of 81% of Cambridge’s offers and 82% of Oxford’s were to students from the top two social classes.
Lammy first received the data in 2010 and said, since then, the universities have gone “backwards on social class” and made “very little progress on race”, he said.
He added it showed the universities “overwhelmingly draw their students from a privileged minority in the South of England and are complacent at best about taking steps to widen participation and access”.
In a series of tweets, Lammy shared the details of his findings and said: “This is elitism and it’s getting worse.”
Lammy had to fight for over a year to get the data, which the University of Oxford initially refused to reveal. “It was like trying to get blood out of a stone,” he told Radio 4′s Today programme.
“We have a huge chasm between a child in Salford, a child in Middlesbrough, and children in the London boroughs for Richmond and Barnet for whom the success rate is actually quite high.
“The children of bankers and children of judges are making their way to Oxford but the children on our housing estates, even if they get three As or more, not managing to get in.”
Dr Samina Khan, director of undergraduate admissions at Oxford, said when the data was analysed “properly and correctly”, it showed the problem was a lack of attainment earlier in education.
“It’s a question of proportion rather than raw numbers, which point to a pipeline issue,” she said.
Lammy claimed the universities should follow the example of elite American institutions like Harvard and Yale, and take a student’s background into account when setting the grades needed for admission.
Khan said Oxford had been wary of releasing data because it had to be careful not to identify students, but Lammy said the data should be published as a matter of course.
He also called for reforms to admissions, including a centralised admissions process instead of allowing individual colleges deciding, foundation years and for the universities to do more to reach out to talented students from under-represented backgrounds.