Students of colour form the majority of Oxbridge applicants for the first time

The University College Admissions Service (UCAS) has shown white students to be in the minority of Oxbridge applicants for the first time. This marks a steep 17% drop between 2015-2023 spanning 8 years. The total number of white applicants this year, set at 25,530, is the lowest in over a decade.

Out of a total 51,890 applicants, only 49.7% were white, down significantly from a majority of 67.9% in 2015. This correlates with a record number of students from the most deprived areas applying for some of the most competitive courses.

Experts such as Sander Kristel, Interim Chief Executive of UCAS, attribute the narrowing of the disadvantage gap to “the effort…to ensure everyone in society can aspire to the most competitive courses.”

We are trying to really target people who wouldn’t necessarily have thought about Oxford

Dr Jo Begbie, Programme Leader, Astrophoria Foundation Year

Oxford and Cambridge have also both increased efforts on their respective outreach programmes. This was designed to create more equity among students irrespective of class or racial backgrounds. The programme works alongside the contextual admissions system at both universities, considering how a candidate’s background and schooling might have impacted their education.

Ambitions are as high as ever as students across all backgrounds are becoming more empowered to apply to most competitive courses at top universities. On the whole there were 39,130 applications for 18-year olds in the UK for these courses this year, which is up from 38,660 applications in 2022. There was a total of 20,850 international students who also applied. This figure marked a small drop from the previous year but was higher than the pandemic.

With the early applications for Oxbridge marking the commencement of the application season, the shift in both demographics and backgrounds for those applying for the best courses at the best universities has never been more evident.

The newly introduced Oxford foundation year also demonstrates a push to include marginalised groups. Dr Jo Begbie, heading the programme, commented: “We are trying to really target people who wouldn’t necessarily have thought about Oxford”.


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