Update: Race and Ethnicity Statistics for Admissions 2020

This week, as the admissions process continues for 2021 entry, the University of Oxford made available to its colleges the statistics relating to the race and ethnicity of students admitted in the previous admissions cycle (students who came to Oxford for their interviews in December 2019 and began their courses in October 2020).  Racial equality in admissions is high on Worcester’s agenda, and at the beginning of 2019 we set a target for the admission of BAME applicants within our four fair access targets. Access to Worcester College could be regarded as fair, we decided, if the proportion of BAME students admitted was no lower than the proportion of those who receive AAA+ at A Level who are BAME (around 21%).

We had a lot of work to do. In the previous year (2019 entry) we had admitted only 16 BAME students, who formed just under 11% of our UK intake; even more concerningly BAME students in that year’s admissions round had a success rate of just over half that of white students. BAME students were applying in large numbers, but they were less likely to be made offers. In order to change this we needed to think seriously about the decisions we were making as admitting tutors: the process we went through to empower tutors more readily to recognise diverse potential in applicants from under-represented groups is detailed here.

The data that we received this week show that our efforts have been rewarded. In the most recent admissions cycle (2020 entry), we admitted 42 BAME students, just over 36% of our UK intake. Even more importantly, we re-balanced applicants’ success rates: in 2020, BAME applicants to Worcester College became slightly more likely to be successful in their applications than white students. Success rates are important indicators in widening participation and access work, because they allow us to target specific kinds of inequalities. If white students have a higher success rate than BAME students (as remains the case across the University as a whole, where in 2020 white applicants had a higher offer rate than BAME applicants), then simply encouraging more BAME students to apply will not wholly resolve the access problem. Work to oppose unequal rates of success will need to be prioritised in the search for equal access.

Outreach work also played a large part in our success in increasing the number of BAME students admitted. With equal access for BAME students adopted as one of our key access goals (alongside equal access for other under-represented groups), we have seen an increase in the number of BAME students applying to Worcester across the 2019 and 2020 admissions cycles. This growing number of applications from BAME students results not only from the work that our access and outreach team have done (including putting in place sustained engagement programmes for applicants from BAME groups) but also from collaborative work with programmes like Target Oxbridge and with charities and community groups like the Amos Bursary, the Muslim Women’s Council and other groups that have helped us to get the word out about our access programmes to BAME, and particularly Black, students.

Much more work remains to be done. In grouping all non-white students under the single heading ‘BAME’, the data we have hides some of the ways that educational inequality and bias affects particular groups and communities, and we will seek to examine more granular data further. We continue to work to oppose racism in all areas of College life and to build an anti-racist environment for teaching and learning; and we continue in our work with schools and colleges to oppose educational equality at all levels, and to support all disadvantaged and under-represented groups. As the admissions process for 2021 continues, we hope to sustain this progress over this coming year and in the years to come – and we look forward to updating you on how our work to ensure equal access is proceeding.

 - Dr Marchella Ward, Tinsley Outreach Fellow