The Guardian is reporting that Oxford University spends more than £100,000 for each additional student from a poor background it admits every year, according to a new analysis of its efforts to improve access.
Figures published in Prospect show that Oxford’s “cost of acquisition” for every extra student from a low-income area admitted since 2009 is £108,000. The data is based on Oxford’s record of admitting about 10 extra students from low-income postcodes each year between 2009 and 2016, spending at least £14m a year on access and widening participation as required by higher education regulators.
Writing in Prospect, Alan Rusbridger, the former Guardian editor who is now principal of Lady Margaret Hall, lays bare the ongoing debate within Oxford over its admissions policies.
The university faces ongoing criticism for its over-representation of students from private schools and wealthy families, as well as its uneven record in admitting UK students from black and other minority ethnic backgrounds.
Not all the £14m-a-year figure goes on recruiting students, some is spent on bursaries for those who are already admitted. The £108,000 per extra student is calculated using the proportion spent on outreach activities and staff, and then dividing it by the number of extra students recruited per year.
“Oxford is undeniably missing out on talent. It rightly wants to recruit ‘the best’ but it is struggling to find them all – unless you believe ‘the best’ uniquely reside within the top 20% band of the socio-economically better off,” Rusbridger writes.
Part of the blame for the continued reliance on independent schools is competition caused by the university’s informal league table, known as the Norrington table, which ranks colleges by degree results.
A new league table devised by Oxford’s student union ranks colleges by the proportion of pupils admitted from disadvantaged postcodes – and shows no conflict between diversity and academic performance. Traditional academic powerhouses such as Merton, St John’s and Balliol are in the top 10 for degree results and disadvantage.
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