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Number of EU undergraduates increases despite Brexit

The number of BME students at the University has also increased this year

Ryan Gould
Ryan Gould
Ryan is a news editor for Trinity Term 2018. He is studying for a Masters degree in English literature.

The number of EU nationals studying at Oxford has increased by over 10% despite the UK’s looming exit from the European Union, as vice chancellor Louise Richardson warns that Brexit could cost the UK research sector billions.

According to newly-released statistics, the total number of EU nationals studying at undergraduate level has increased from 986 in 2016 to 1,087 in 2017 – a rise of 10.2%.
The figures also show that the number of overseas (non-EU) undergraduates increased by 3.7%, rising from 1,309 in 2016 to 1,358 in 2017.

All-graduate Nuffield College, which specialises in the social sciences, is an EU stronghold, with 41% of its students coming from countries within the European Union. Meanwhile, Trinity College is among the worst colleges for EU representation, with just 10% of its students coming from the EU.

The University welcomed the findings in a statement, but voiced concern about the future status of EU staff and students. “We are pleased to see Oxford remains an attractive and welcoming choice for Europe’s most talented students,” a University spokesperson told Cherwell.

“The status of staff and students from other parts of the EU in future years remains a major concern for the University, however.

“We will continue to call for clear commitments on this issue to reassure staff and students who are already here or hoping to join us.”

Vice chancellor Louise Richardson condemned the government’s plans for higher education following Brexit yesterday, stating that current “pay-as-you-go” proposals represented an “enormous loss” for British research. Under the plans, the UK would only receive grants up to the value of what it pays in to EU funding programmes.

“The reality is that between 2007 and 2013 the UK contributed £5.4 billion to the EU to support research, development, and innovation while over the same period we received £8.8 billion under the EU research framework programme budget,” Richardson told the British Irish Chamber of Commerce.

“I would call on the UK government to make it a priority in the Brexit negotiations that our universities continue to have the strongest possible relationship with the EU.”

The figures also reveal that the number of black and minority ethnic (BME) students rose by 4.8%, up from 2,455 in 2016 to 2,573 in 2017.

Data released by the University in February revealed that only 8% of black students received firsts in last year’s Final Honours School examinations, compared to 32% of mixed race students and 36% of white students.

“Our figures show a growing number of BME students are applying and being offered places at Oxford, and our students speak positively about the benefits of studying here,” a University spokesperson said.

“We’re encouraged by [the 4.8% increase], but we realise there is still more to do, and we will continue to work with school students of African and Caribbean heritage, as well as other ethnic groups. We are also working with teachers to help them support their most talented students in realising their aspirations.”

Despite the revelation that for the first time in recent history, Oxford offered more places to women than men in this year’s UCAS cycle, the statistics suggest that men still make up 53% of the undergraduate body.

37% of men received first class degrees last summer compared to 29% of women.
The University said: “Although we cannot say for certain whether this is the first time in history and it’s too early to call it a trend, it is a welcome sign of progress for female applicants to Oxford.”

At the same time, men continue to dominate the sciences, as 70% of undergraduates across mathematics, physical, and life sciences (MPLS) are male. The University admitted 3,615 students to MPLS programmes in 2017, of which 2,529 were male.

Women continue to dominate the humanities, with almost 60% of undergraduates being female.

There is a similar picture at college level. Kellogg College, though a postgraduate college, has the worst gender balance with 62% of its students being male. Jonathan Richie, President of Kellogg, told Cherwell that the College is “keen to promote the interests of women students – and of other women members of our community – and to do everything practicable in this regard.”

He also said that the gender balance at Kellogg varies across academic programmes, with some courses being “overwhelmingly female” and some “overwhelmingly male.”

Computer Science, for instance, is Kellogg’s largest subject area with around 200 students. Richie suggests that, if Computer Science were omitted, the gender balance of Kellogg’s student body would be “about average.”

“Although we’d prefer to have a better gender balance within our student body, our instinct is that for graduate students, the departments should make the decisions about who to admit, and we would not refuse a student just because they were male,” Richie said.

“In other words, we tend to simply accept the students that the departments send to us.”
Elsewhere, Balliol College and St Edmund Hall are also home to more men than women, with 59% and 58% of men making up undergraduate numbers respectively.

Across the University, the number of postgraduate taught students has increased from 5,041 in 2016 to 5,544 in 2017, marking an increase of 9.9% despite a plateau in the number of undergraduates studying at the University.

The total number of students studying at the University rose from 23,195 to 23,975 in 2017.

“The University’s overall undergraduate numbers have been kept stable for several years. There is global competition for the most talented postgraduate students,” the University stated.

“Oxford’s success in attracting growing numbers of the very best reflects the excellence of academic guidance and research facilities on offer here.”

Additional reporting: Oscar Baker

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