‘Unconscious Bias’ At Oxford University Is Still Hindering Admissions

A former higher education minister is holding Oxford University responsible for discrimination and an unconscious bias against minorities during the admission process.

David Lammy, former minister for higher education in the U.K., has accused Oxford University of an “unconscious bias” and discrimination against the African-American community and other minorities.

Just recently, Lammy was involved in a heated discussion with senior representatives of the university regarding its recruitment process. They talked about whether people involved in the admission process were trained well enough to recognize when there was an “unconscious bias” and put their judgments aside.

 “You’ve got academics writing on it, yet I suspect the training is not actually happening across the system. We all tend to recruit in our own image,” Lammy said.

“It’s not about teachers saying, ‘Don’t go to Oxford’. It’s also about the academics saying ‘that young Somali girl, whose accent …, ’” he said. He was then interrupted by Peter Claus, who is the access fellow by special election for Pembroke College who called that “absolute nonsense.”

“Are you saying there’s no unconscious bias? Are you suggesting that?” Lammy said.

Claus insisted interviews were only a small part of the admission process and thus didn’t have much impact on the selection process.

“All I can say is that, as a black politician serving the most diverse constituency in the country, I find it worrying that there’s a roar of, ‘Oh we can’t possibly be racist,” Lammy retaliated. Claus, who was determined to prove there was no unconscious bias and racism on the university’s end, insisted that Lammy was “misrepresenting the admissions process, that’s all.”

This is not the first time Oxford University has landed itself in hot water after being accused of racism or white privilege. Information obtained a few years ago by the Guardian under the Freedom of Information Act stated that around 25.7% of white applicants received an offer letter to join Oxford in comparison to the 17.2% that came from minority groups. Moreover, white students applying to medicine were twice as likely to receive an admission offer as compared to minority students, despite meeting grade requirements.

Only one in 10 British students at Oxford come from households that earn around $19,000 or less per year. The figure needs to increase so that even those students who come from less privileged backgrounds can have access to top quality education.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters

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