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Letter to Vice Chancellor on Admissions Statistics

Dear Vice-Chancellor,

I am writing on behalf of the St John’s College Junior Common Room in relation to the University’s decision to delay its publication of its annual Undergraduate Admissions Report.

The report had been scheduled to be released last week. The University, however, has been reported as saying that it feels strongly that this is “not the right time to share our data,” and that “After careful consideration of the current world events and also learning that Cambridge will not be publishing its admissions data until late June, the decision to postpone the release of the annual admissions statistical report has been taken”.

I note that the University has been widely criticised in the past for the low numbers of Black students who are successfully admitted. Looking at the University’s 2019 Undergraduate Admissions Report, the rationale behind these criticisms is clear. 18.3% of the University’s 2018 UK intake identified as BME, a figure significantly below the 25.6% reported as the average across all UK universities in 2016. Of this 18.3%, only 2.6% identified as Black.

It is clear that the “current world events” being referred to in the University communication are the protests following the brutal murder of George Floyd, and more generally the Black Lives Matter movement that has recently dominated global discourse. By delaying the release of its annual Undergraduate Admissions Report, the University appears to be seeking to avoid fresh backlash and reputational damage over its record relating to the admission of students from BME backgrounds, and in particular those identifying as Black African or Caribbean.

Institutionalised racism remains deeply entrenched in the UK, including in the University of Oxford. The University’s lack of transparency over the publication of the report is in direct contradiction with its recent statement on this issue, which said, “We’re committed to supporting our community in opposing racism in all its forms, including upholding anti-racist values”. A commitment to opposing racism by any person or institution necessitates a large degree of reflection, and a willingness to be self-critical in order to improve. Publicly admitting to poor diversity statistics is one of the most important ways in which an institution like the university is able to demonstrate its willingness to change, and to prove that its statements on racism are more than mere platitudes.

I therefore call on the University to take the following actions as soon as practicable:

  • The immediate release of the 2020 admissions statistical report on its 2019 intake
  • The release of a plan of action for raising the percentage of UK-domiciled students who identify as BME, as well as the percentage of UK-domiciled students who identify as Black African or Caribbean in particular, to at least the average across UK universities

 

Phil Fernandes

JCR President

St John’s College, Oxford

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