Oxford hit back by saying that the number quoted by Cameron was entirely misleading. A spokesman said the figure only referred to students of black Caribbean origin, and that in total 41 undergraduates ‘with black backgrounds’ were admitted that year. The university also pointed out that ethnic minorities accounted for 22% of Oxford’s total undergraduate population in 2009.
Cameron also criticised access for poorer students, saying it was ‘terrible’ that the number admitted from state schools had gone down in the last 20 years. But even that figure has been attacked by the Russell Group of leading universities, who say the proportion of students they’ve taken from state schools has risen by 9% since 1997 – which is more than for higher education as a whole. They also argue, not unreasonably, that it’s unfair to blame universities for the structural problems of the secondary education sector.
Critics also argue that Cameron might want to get his own house in order first: just 4% of the Conservative MPs elected last year were non-white.