Toby Young just pretty much blamed David Lammy for Oxford University’s ethnic inequality

Toby Young and David Lammy
Fréa Lockley

Labour MP David Lammy has slammed Oxford University for its failure to improve student diversity. So Toby Young has waded into the row, claiming Lammy’s “harping on about Oxford’s ‘shameful’ track record” could be to blame. It didn’t end well for Young.

“Social apartheid”

New research has found “that more than one in four” Oxford colleges “failed to admit a single black British student each year between 2015 and 2017”. As the Guardian reported:

Overall, white British applicants were twice as likely to be admitted to undergraduate courses as their black British peers – 24% of the former gained entry and 12% of the latter.

Tottenham MP David Lammy has been raising this point for some time. He used a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in 2016 to ask for ethnicity data from Oxbridge. This revealed that only 1.5% of all offers made went to Black British students. In response, Lammy said:

This is social apartheid and it is utterly unrepresentative of life in modern Britain

When new data was released on 23 May, he analysed the findings in detail on Twitter:

And he needed to call out an Oxford spokesperson on Radio 4:

Lammy also defended criticism from right-wing commentators about privilege and lack of economic diversity at elite universities:

Oxford apologised to Lammy after retweeting a post that called his criticism “bitter”:

But then, self-named education ‘expert’ Young waded in.


In January, Young stepped down from the university watchdog Office for Students. As The Canary reported, Young’s appointment had caused widespread controversy.

But despite this, as an Oxford alumnus, he felt “compelled” to join the debate:

And his ‘expertise’ culminated in pretty much blaming Lammy for inequality at Oxford:

Universities minister Sam Gyimah retweeted this:

However, Lammy was swift to draw Young’s attention to a rather inconvenient truth:

Putting people off?

In response to Young’s comments, Lammy told The Canary:

Putting people off applying by forcing Oxford to publish the data? I’m sure working class, northern and ethnic minority young people are perfectly capable of looking at the data and making their own minds up.

It matters

Lammy has raised some vital questions. Young people from state schools achieve higher grades than those from independent and private schools. And figures prove Oxford’s intake doesn’t reflect this:

But the latest figures do show ethnic, economic and geographic discrimination. And this comes at a time when it costs young people more than ever to go to university.

And this matters. Because the power-making elite of the UK is filled with Oxbridge graduates:

This leads to the question: how will things ever change? Commentary from people like Young reflects so much that is wrong with entrenched class and privilege in the UK. We need to demand a society that celebrates achievement, not one that perpetuates outmoded, racist, and classist discrimination.

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Featured images via Raj Curry/Wikimedia and Policy Exchange/Flickr

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