Under immense pressure over transparency, Oxford University last month released its latest and most-detailed-ever tranche of undergraduate admissions data. These statistics have been heavily drawn on in a series of articles and statements, notably by the MP for Tottenham David Lammy (Link) who focuses on the representation of black British students. The goal of this post is to help inform this particular debate by analysing relevant features of this treasure-trove of data, pointing out where we can infer true differences from patterns in the data. Unless otherwise noted, the source of all analyses below is Oxford’s May 2018 Annual Admissions Statistical Report and the associated datasets released.
To summarise my discussion, I find that:
- Among Oxford offer holders, black students are under-represented relative to the overall population but over-represented once we restrict to those achieving the top school grades.
- Out of those who apply, black students have a significantly lower probability of receiving an offer.
- Just under half of this gap can be attributed to black students being more likely to apply to more-competitive subjects than other applicants.
- The remainder of the gap is due to lower probabilities of application success within courses.