Letter: No Oxford race bias

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The Independent Culture

No Oxford race bias

Sir: The university is concerned to see that The Independent has so fundamentally misrepresented the findings of the report by Professor Chris McManus on selection for entry to medical schools in the UK ("Racism diagnosed at medical schools", 22 October).

Contrary to what is reported, Oxford is one of the few medical schools in the country where Professor McManus found no significant bias in respect of any factor that might have influenced selection, with the sole exception that, as at all medical schools, candidates who are weak academically are unlikely to gain a place.

In particular, the report finds no significant evidence of bias related to a candidate's gender, social class, ethnic origin, age or type of school attended. The Independent appears to have based its report not on Professor McManus's analysis and conclusions, but on a figure given for one year. The statistical uncertainty attached by Professor McManus to that figure is such that the table in The Independent's article cannot be justified.

Oxford has a policy of equal opportunities for its applicants, and takes its duties in this respect seriously. We are the only medical school in the country to set all candidates a common entrance test that is marked according to a standard scheme. Furthermore, since last year, that exercise has been conducted anonymously. It is used as one of the factors in the selection process, and our data show that the test results are applied without racial bias.

Whilst the university is pleased at the outcome of Professor McManus's report, we are in no way complacent, and we shall be implementing the action plan agreed by all medical schools so as to put in place further safeguards of fairness.


Director of Pre-Clinical Studies,

Laboratory of Physiology,

University of Oxford,