Sheffield MP hits out at 'disgraceful' Oxbridge universities for failing to recruit more youngsters from poorer backgrounds

Clive Betts MP.
Clive Betts MP.

A Sheffield MP believes it is a disgrace that Oxford and Cambridge universities do not recruit more youngsters from poorer backgrounds.

Clive Betts is calling for the Oxbridge establishments to increase their intake of students from disadvantaged areas.

His call comes after it was revealed that Oxford and Cambridge recruit nearly 9000 students from a cluster of eight local authority areas - but just 39 from the eight most disadvantaged areas.

Mr Betts backed a letter written by David Lammy MP, and signed by more than 100 other MPs, that was sent to the vice-chancellors of both universities urging them to give more youngsters from poorer backgrounds an opportunity.

The Labour MP for Sheffield South East, who studied at Cambridge, described the current situation as "shocking and unacceptable."

He added: "That certainly doesn’t reflect an accurate picture of the brightest and most talented 18-year-olds in this country.

"I was one of those rare individuals – a working-class, council-house, north Sheffield boy, from a family with no experience of higher education – who was fortunate enough to win a place to study at Cambridge University.

"I certainly was one of a small minority then. It is disgraceful that the situation today is so little different from that time.”

He added: "Oxford and Cambridge Universities get £800 million of tax-payers’ money. It is incumbent on them to demonstrate that they have reached out to identify, nurture and recruit those exceptionally talented students from the poorest communities.

"I know from families and schools in my own constituency that when their children – without the benefit of a family with academic achievement, without the assistance of private tutors, without the advantage of a network of family friends from the professions – get 3 A*s in their A levels, their achievement is far greater than for those who have had every advantage in their childhood, but who Oxbridge continues to prefer.”

A spokesperson for Oxford University said the institution shared the concerns expressed by MPs and acknowledged that it had "a great deal of work to do."

A Department for Education spokesperson argued that the latest UCAS data shows students from disadvantaged backgrounds are 51 per cent more likely to go to one of the most selective universities than in 2011.

But they accepted more needs to be done and added that the Government is working with the office for fair access to address the issue.