Call to set up new colleges for disadvantaged students

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New Oxbridge colleges should be established to make more space for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, a policy report has suggested.

The report was published by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) based on ideas taken from MPs and academics. Given the expansion of places at many universities nationwide, the report recommends more places at Oxford and Cambridge, describing the current Oxbridge application processes as “hyper-selective”.

Nick Hillman, director of Hepi, said that “People from rich households are more likely to reach the most prestigious institutions, white working-class boys rarely make it to higher education and there is a big black attainment gap.” 

Figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) show that some universities have expanded their undergraduate intake by as much as 50% over the past five years. By contrast, Cambridge saw a mere 4% increase in its number of first-year students, whilst at Oxford the figure has gone down by a considerable 21%.

Oxford has challenged the latter statistic, instead claiming that their own figures show a 2% increase.

“… no plans to expand overall undergraduate numbers or create new colleges”

A spokeswoman for the University of Oxford said that there were “no plans to expand overall undergraduate numbers or create new colleges.” She added that colleges are already facing challenges over accommodation and that many “initiatives which are expanding the number of students from under-represented backgrounds” are already in place.

The University of Cambridge has also rejected the proposal. Professor Graham Virgo, pro-vice-chancellor for education, said that “Our biggest problem… is convincing people that they should apply and making it clear to them that they are welcome here.

“What message about inclusivity would be sent out by setting up a new college for this purpose?”