The issue is the 35 total. Black people represent 3%
of the UK population, and the 35 appears to be around 1.5% of successful applicants, so black students are represented in about half the numbers
that would be expected if everything were equal. Expressing it in terms of colleges with no black students admitted is a kind of statistical scare tactic, because colleges are actually quite small. The average is 1.2 black students per college, and applying the Poisson approximation to the binomial, the probability of having no black students in a given college is around 0.3. So you'd expect 10 out of 35 colleges to have no black students: those particular colleges aren't necessarily any worse than the others. Even if black students were admitted exactly in proportion to the background population, there would be a 10% chance of a given college having no black students, so three or four colleges having none ought not to be a surprise.
A factor of two in under-representation is definitely bad news, but statistics ought to be expressed in a way that's meaningful and allows us to get a proper handle on the problem. Likening it to apartheid is, in my opinion, offensive to the admissions tutors and interviewers, most of whom are trying their best to select the most able candidates irrespective of race, gender, background and all that. It also makes it sound like an easy problem -- you just have to stop barring black kids from your college and it will all be OK -- when in fact it's deeply complex and a symptom of wide-ranging problems in society at large.
(Another factor here is that, with the media and political establishment being based in London and other cities, the intuitive feeling for the ethnic minority proportions in the UK is probably quite far from the reality, since the proportions there are much higher. Even allowing for an Oxbridge college being about the size of a small primary school, the idea of having no black kids in an intake would be unimaginable).
Jumble wrote:Okay, as an Oxford graduate, I believe that is utterly indefensible. Yes, Oxford and Cambridge are elitist, academically elitist. As someone who remains the only member of his family to go to to any university, and who's grandfather's job was breaking rocks on a roadside, I remain happy that the universities should be able to select on proven academic ability. If you haven't been able to demonstrate your ability irrespective of your background by 18 then education needs to be changed, rather than introduce social quotas in universities to gloss this over.
However, I don't believe that there can be a plausible excuse for such a marked discrimination on race or skin colour. That must be answered.
This. The issue that the press initially focused on was around the low level of admissions from lower-income backgrounds and from the north of England, though I haven't looked through all the statistics properly, I'm not sure to what extent those are being exaggerated. There's a comparison quoted between number of admissions from the Home Counties compared to "the whole north of England", but the reports don't make it clear what the relative populations of those two regions are.
My problem with a lot of this is that it conflates different things. There's an ongoing narrative that talks about a ruling class from "Eton and Oxbridge", when those two are not the same thing at all
. Eton is a very expensive "public" [=private] school that you have to come from a rich and well-connected family to attend. Oxford and Cambridge are intellectually elitist establishments for which you need to achieve excellent A-level results and/or pass in a special entrance exam and perform well in a difficult interview, in some combination. I went to a comprehensive, and worked damned hard to get my GCSEs and A-levels, to get into Cambridge and to get my degree; I think those things should
count for something. Of course they shouldn't be the only factor, but they should be a factor. Those of us who perform better when allowed to plug away at something than when forced to sell ourselves in an interview deserve to have our proven track record of intellectual performance taken into account.
Of course, the narrative goes beyond the Oxbridge thing and says that intellectual elitism is a bad thing altogether - that our institutions shouldn't be run by intelligent people with extensive knowledge, high intelligence and good reasoning skills. I don't know what to say to that except that of course they should be