David Lammy MP has exhorted Oxford university to put its money where its mouth is in regard to improving black student representation ( “Lammy challenges Oxford on diversity figures”, May 23). He and his parliamentary colleagues on a cross-party basis should do the same to address this issue.
There are two basic problems that need to be addressed with a focused institutional response. First, not enough black students apply to the best universities. Second, black students have less good academic credentials compared with other ethnic groups at a similar age, often as a consequence of the context in which they grow up.
The government, perhaps with philanthropic assistance, could fund a one-year foundation college for 18-year-olds who have completed their A-levels (Opinion, FT.com, May 22). Graduates from the college would be guaranteed one of the places agreed under a quota agreement established between the college and the Russell Group of universities, endorsed by the government.
Only students of minority and disadvantaged backgrounds would be admitted to the college. They would be chosen based on an agreed contextual evaluation of their educational qualifications and situation. With the benefit of a year of additional support, those students chosen would achieve the academic standards of the best of their contemporaries from more advantaged backgrounds, allowing them to thrive rather than struggle in the most competitive academic environments.
Emeritus Fellow, Exeter College,
University of Oxford, UK