Video: Oxford University and the British Class System Panel Discussion

Watch the video of the panel discussion here:


Admission to Oxford University is framed as meritocratic – home to the ‘best and brightest’, where those who work the hardest will gain admission. Such a claim, given the demographics of the student body, equates the ‘best and brightest’ with a narrow social class of students: those who attend Oxford are disproportionately middle class, privately-educated, and white. While only 7% of the British population are privately educated, privately educated pupils represent as much as 40% of Oxford undergraduates.

This class-based inequality is further accentuated along racial lines: the success rate for black applicants was only 16.7% in 2016, compared to a success rate of 26.3% for their white counterparts.

Why is this the case?

We’re taking the issue straight to the University’s head of undergraduate admissions, to those involved with access work, and to experts on social inequality in the UK. This panel seeks to discuss how institutional classism and systemic racism affect admissions to Oxford, and what we can do to change things.


Eden is currently Vice-President for Access and Academic Affairs at Oxford University Students’ Union. She has helped found the new Class Act campaign to support working class, low income, first generation, and state-comprehensive educated students at Oxford. Eden has also pushed for improvements to access and admissions for BAME students, particularly through lobbying the University to introduce compulsory unconscious bias and cultural awareness training.

Samina is Oxford University’s Director of Undergraduate Admissions and Outreach. Prior to joining Oxford, she developed and implemented national policies on education and worked as the Policy Advisor for Edexcel Pearson. She has also represented the Examination Boards nationally as a Director for the Federation of Awarding Bodies and as a member of the Joint Council of Qualifications. Samina has also been involved in encouraging BME students to apply to Oxford.

Faiza is Director of the Centre for Labour And Social Studies (CLASS). She was Head of Inequality and Sustainable Development at Save the Children UK and Senior Researcher on economic inequality at the New Economics Foundation. She is a regular contributor for Newsnight and Channel 4 News, and has worked with Channel 4 and the BBC to develop documentaries on inequality, including recent BBC documentary, ‘Will Britain ever have a black Prime Minister?’ which challenged Oxford on its admissions statistics. Faiza was born and raised in East London, and is an alumna of St. John’s College, Oxford.

Phil worked in education policy at the Sutton Trust, an institution which aims to improve social mobility through education, before joining the University of Oxford as research associate on the project, ‘The History of Dyslexia’. Phil’s academic background is in political geography; his current research interests are in the history of childhood and education, and the history of science and medicine. He is representing the Sutton Trust, an organisation that has funded over 200 programmes, commissioned over 180 research studies and worked to push social mobility to the top of the political agenda.

Rebecca is the Widening Access Co-ordinator at the University of Oxford, and as such, responsible for all of Oxford’s university-level access work. She runs the annual access scheme UNIQ, which seeks to support the applications of students from lower-income backgrounds and state-schools. She also co-ordinates Oxford’s support for schemes like Target Oxbridge.

Naomi, an alumna of Lincoln College, runs the access scheme Target Oxbridge, which provides black African and Caribbean students (often from lower-income families and state-schools in London) with advice and support in making applications to Oxbridge. She has previously worked in the Department of Education at the Civil Service, and as an advisor to the Treasury. She runs Target Oxbridge as part of her role as Schools, Universities and Data Manager for Rare Recruitment, a firm which seeks to assist people from BME and/or working-class backgrounds to make competitive applications to top employers.



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