Top Universities accepting fewer wealthier students


New figures from the Office for Students (OfS) shows that top universities in the UK are accepting fewer students from wealthy backgrounds and admitting more Black students.

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By Ella Ward

The OfS data categorises students into quintiles (fifths) based on the deprivation levels experienced by students in their hometowns. The richest quintile comprised 37.4 percent of Oxford University’s admissions in 2019–20, showing a decrease from 39.6 percent from the previous year. Whilst the admission of privileged students decreased, the number of students accepted from the most deprived quintile increased, raising the admission of deprived students from 5.4 percent to 5.9 percent of undergraduates.

Similar trends have been observed at Cambridge University, with the percentage of deprived students increasing from 4.9 to 6.6 percent. However, whilst the most selective universities have accepted more disadvantaged students, the gap between university admissions of the richest and poorest students across all UK universities has increased overall.

The data shows that admissions of Black students to Cambridge University have increased in 2019–20 since 2018–19. Whilst in 2018–19, 2.4 percent of acceptances were Black students, the percentage has increased to 3.6 percent. Similar increases have been made at Oxford University, with the admission of Black students increasing from 2.8 percent to 3.4 percent.

Yet, not all universities have witnessed the same trends in admissions. For example, Exeter University’s percentage of Black students decreased from 1.6 percent to 1.2 percent over the same time frame. Furthermore, across all UK universities, OfS has shown that Black students are less likely than white students to gain a 2:1 or a first class degree. However, OfS has stated that they aim to close this gap by 2030.

Reflecting on the disparities that still exist in UK universities, Chris Millward, participation director for OfS, has commented that, “there is still more much to do here and the cumulative efforts of universities and colleges through their access and participation plans promise much stronger progress in the coming years.”

Data collected by Nouse regarding the University of York’s admissions via the Freedom of Information Act shows that, alongside the top universities, York has also experienced similar decreases in admissions of privileged students. In the 2018–19 academic year, 14.8 percent of admissions were privately educated students, but this decreased to 14.4 percent in 2019–20. This trend is part of a pattern observed across five years, from 2015–16 to 2020–21, where admissions from private schools decreased from 17.2 percent to 14 percent.