Oxford College Under Fire Over 21% Non-White Student Target

by : Poppy Bilderbeck on :
Oxford College Under Fire Over 21% Non-White Student Target@worcestercollegeoxford/Instagram

An Oxford college has come under fire after to setting an admissions intake goal of 21% non-white students. 

Worcester College set the admissions goal in 2019, in a bid to enhance ‘racial quality’.


However, the university’s college has recently been the subject of criticism due to some seeing the percentage as a ‘quota’.

According to recently released figures, the target has since seen the ethnic minority intake to more than triple, from 11% to 36%. The number of students from an ethnic minority background has subsequently risen from 16 students to 42.

An outreach fellow, Dr Marchella Ward, said the change had been made possible through ’empowering’ tutors to ‘more readily recognise diverse potential’.


However, despite this ’empowering’ of tutors, an anonymous source said the target was ‘awfully like a quota’. They told the MailOnline they couldn’t see how the college could have achieved such a ‘spectacular turnaround’ without ‘using [ethnic minority] status as an explicit plus-factor in admissions decisions’.

A spokesperson for Oxford University countered the claim made by the anonymous source, saying the figure was a ‘target’ not a set ‘quota’. They went on to stress that admissions offers are made on the ‘sole’ basis of academic potential.

In 2019, Louise Richardson, the university’s vice chancellor, set a target of giving 25% of places to students from underprivileged postcodes by the year 2023.


As part of the university’s official ‘access and participation’ plan, the university stated its intentions to try and attract more students from ethnic minority backgrounds. However, until recently, Oxford University’s central management had not yet set a specific target in relation to admissions of such students.

Subsequently, Worcester College has been seen as adopting a more ‘radical’ approach than the wider university.

During the most recent admissions process, Dr Ward completed a blog post to explain the reason for the target.


She said:

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%).


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In 2019, Ward claims that those who applied who were students from an ethnic minority had a success rate of just over half of that of white students. She noted that while ‘BAME students were applying in large numbers’, they were ‘less likely to be made offers’.

Ward resolved that to change this, admissions tutors would need to ‘think seriously about the decisions’ they were making.


Dr Kate Tunstall ran Worcester college up until August 2021, as an interim provost. She wrote about George Floyd in Worcester’s annual record, detailing how his murder, alongside the Black Lives Matter movement, ‘shed a glaring light on the intolerable fact that being safe and well is all too often a privilege’.

Oriel College was boycotted over its decision to not remove a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a 19th Century Imperialist. Tunstall not only joined in the academic boycotting of the nearby college but also oversaw a plan to replace college prayers. The plan sought to replace the prayers with a ‘range of set texts of thanksgiving from any world culture, religious or not’.

Worcester college’s admissions campaign follows the news of Labour MP David Lammy having accused the university of having ‘unconscious bias’ against Black students.

If you have been affected by any of the issues in this article and wish to speak to someone in confidence, contact Stop Hate UK by visiting their website www.stophateuk.org/talk.

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Topics: News, Now, Oxford University, Students


Daily Mail
  1. Daily Mail

    Oxford college in row over 21% non-white student target: Bosses face criticism over target to boost number of ethnic minority admissions