Oxford University retweeted a post today criticising David Lammy for his “bitter” remarks after figures showed more than one in four of its colleges did not admit a single black British student each year during a three year period.
The Labour MP slammed the university on Wednesday as being a “bastion of entrenched, wealthy upper class white privilege” after admission figures showed white British applicants were twice as likely to be admitted to undergraduate courses as their black British peers.
Shortly after Lammy was interviewed about the figures on BBC’s Today programme, the university retweeted a post accusing the MP of being “bang out of order”. Comments under the retweet questioned why the university was endorsing the remark.
Oxford’s Corpus Christi College was the worst performer between 2015 and 2017, admitting just one black British student, according to the admissions figures.
Its most prestigious colleges, including Balliol and University and Magdalen, only admitted two black British students as undergraduates during the same period.
Lammy, who last year accused Oxford of “social apartheid”, said its claims today that it had made progress were “glacial... I don’t think it’s progress”.
“I’ve been doing this now for decades and it’s not just 1 or 2% here, it is not achieving genuine systematic change and the truth is, Oxford is a bastion of white middle class, southern, privilege, that is what it is,” he told BBC’s Today Programme.
“They (Oxford) have to explain why you are twice as likely to get in if you are white than if you are black and why you are more likely to get in, indeed, again, if you are from the south, rather than the north of England when you apply.”
Lammy said Oxford was “lagging behind” the Ivy League in the States and Cambridge University and questioned what it was spending its £5 million outreach funds on because “they’re failing badly”.
In a press release accompanying the figures, the university said it “recognised the report shows it needs to make more progress”.
It said it was adding 500 more places to its spring and summer school programme, Uniq, for students from under-represented backgrounds which boosts their admission chances.
Samina Khan, the university’s head of admissions and outreach, defended the figures on the Today programme saying Oxford simply wasn’t getting enough applications from the right candidates.
Black British applications were also some times failing to meet “conditions of the offer”, she said.
“We are not getting the right amount of black people with the talent to apply to us and that is why we are pushing really heard in our outreach activity to make sure we make them feel welcome and they realise Oxford is for them.”
Khan added: “Progress is much better than what most people think and we will continue to work hard.... to increase the pace of change.”
Oxford’s figures also showed wide gaps in the proportion of state-school and female students admitted.
Between 2015 and 2017 less than 40% of Balliol’s British undergraduate intake were women, while Trinity College admitted three students from independent schools for every two they admitted from state schools.
The admissions data shows Oxford has struggled to recruit black and minority ethnic students to some of its most famous degree courses including PPE, its course in politics, philosophy and economics.
The course had 10 black British students enrolled between 2015 and 2017.
Oxford’s course in English literature and language admitted six black British students during the same period.
No black British students were admitted to theology, biomedical sciences or earth sciences courses during the period and none of the 30 black British students who applied to study computer science or psychology gained entry.
Seven of Oxford’s 25 largest courses received fewer than 10 applications each from black students in 2015-17.
Oxford University has been approached for comment about the retweet but is yet to reply.