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London University failed one year to admit a single white working class student


A university that boasts of being one of the most diverse in the UK failed one year to admit a single white working class student.

The startling fact appears in a document detailing plans to improve access to SOAS University of London.

The document says the number of white undergraduates living in poor neighbourhoods that were recruited through the main UCAS admission round in 2017 was zero.

All ethnic minority groups in England are now, on average, more likely to go to university than their white British peers.

SOAS, where more than half of the intake is from ethnic minority backgrounds, describes itself as having ‘an exceptionally diverse student body’ and says its mission is to ‘recruit and teach diverse students’.

Yet its Access and Participation Plan for 2020-2025, which all universities must submit to the regulator to demonstrate how they will recruit and support under-represented groups, shows a worrying absence of white working class youngsters. 

The recently-published document admits: ‘SOAS had zero acceptances (rounded to the nearest five) from white students from low participation neighbourhoods via the UCAS main scheme in 2017. (This excluded clearing and direct applications).’

Other universities in London have admitted very low proportions under the measure. Imperial College recruited 30 white applicants from poor neighbourhoods in 2017 – just one per cent of its intake.

A report by the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) last year found that at more than half of institutions, less than five per cent of students were white and from areas where very few young people go to university. 

Graeme Atherton, director of NEON, said its analysis of universities’ 2020-2021 access plans showed only four had specific targets relating to white working class students compared with 27 in 2019-20. 

A SOAS spokesman acknowledged the challenges of attracting white, working class students but said the university had improved since 2017 and it was now working with schools in London, Sheffield and Northampton. The spokesman said a different measure of poverty, the index of multiple deprivations, showed SOAS’s intake of white disadvantaged teenagers rose from nine per cent in 2017-18 to 14 per cent the following year.