Oxbridge limits 'will hit black grammar school pupils'

Oxbridge discriminating against grammar schools ‘could unfairly impact black and minority ethnic pupils’, warns education thinktank

Britain’s leading universities have been warned not to discriminate against grammar schools as it could unfairly impact black and minority ethnic youngsters.

The warning comes after the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope, faced accusations of ‘social engineering’ for saying that enrolling more grammar school pupils would not help to widen ‘participation goals’.

Canadian-born Professor Toope told the Times Education Commission: ‘We have to keep making it very, very clear we are intending to reduce over time the number of people from independent schools.’

The warning comes after the Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge, Professor Stephen Toope, faced accusations of ‘social engineering’ for saying that enrolling more grammar school pupils would not help to widen ‘participation goals’

Now, the head of a respected think-tank, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), has waded into the row. Research from HEPI has shown that grammar schools send more ethnic minorities students to Cambridge than all other state schools in the country combined.

It also indicated that children from the most disadvantaged 20 per cent of households are more than twice as likely to get an Oxbridge place if they live in an area with grammar schools. 

HEPI’s chairman, Nick Hillman, said: ‘If Oxbridge sets limits on grammar school recruitment, we may see the number of UK students with minority ethnic backgrounds drop.’

Dr Mark Fenton, chief executive of the Grammar School Heads Association, said: ‘Professor Toope should also be aware that in counties with a wholly selective system, virtually all the most academic students attend selective schools regardless of social background. If Cambridge was to reduce admissions from grammar schools, this would be manifestly unfair on large swathes of the country.’

Research from HEPI has shown that grammar schools send more ethnic minorities students to Cambridge than all other state schools in the country combined

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘Grammar schools are a valuable part of our system, and universities must have a fair, transparent application process. Discriminating against a child because of their background or which school they went to is never acceptable.’

Mr Zahawi added: ‘I am proud we have more 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds at university than ever before and I want a system that continues to equip those students with the skills and knowledge they need to progress, whether to a top-tier university, an apprenticeship or the world of work.’

A Cambridge University spokesman said: ‘We do not discriminate against any applicant. If society is serious about offering opportunities to everyone, universities like ours need to reach beyond traditional recruiting grounds to very talented pupils who wouldn’t necessarily have considered applying.’

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