Ethnic minority applicants to some of the most competitive courses at Oxford University can be up to half as likely to gain places as white students – despite having the same top A-level grades.
Figures released by the elite university under the Freedom of Information Act show that white students applying to study medicine in 2010 and 2011 were twice as likely to receive an offer of a place as non-whites.
Just over 22 per cent of minority students who went on to gain three A* grades at A Level were offered places, compared to 43 per cent of white applicants.
The difference was even more stark for places to study economics and management, where 19.1 per cent of white applicants received offers compared to 9.3 per cent from ethnic minorities.
But the figures were not uniform. There was no significant difference between the success rates for white and non-white applicants applying to study law. Across all courses, 25.7 per cent of white applicants received offers compared to 17.2 per cent of non-whites.
The Labour MP David Lammy said the figures suggested an “institutional bias” at the university, which has previously explained such disparities as being in part due to the popularity of competitive subjects such as medicine with non-white students.
The university denied that the figures were the result of discrimination, saying it was in its interests to select students regardless of ethnicity. A spokeswoman said: “Differences in success rates between ethnic groups are therefore something we are continuing to examine carefully for possible explanations.”
Both Oxford and Cambridge universities have previously faced questions about apparent disparities in the success rates for applicants from different ethnicities. Figures for entry to Cambridge to study medicine between 2007 and 2009 showed that 35 per cent of white students with three A grades were offered places, compared to 24 per cent of non-whites.