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It is that time of year when Oxford and Cambridge universities are in the doghouse again, accused of being biased against black students. A politician, Mr David Lammy, has called for special measures to be taken to boost the numbers of Africans at those universities. Calls like this seem to be accepted at face value, but universities are tertiary educators, fed by secondary schools. What does the pipeline deliver them?

Well, to get to a good university you need at least 3 A grades, and for the best colleges preferably 5, all in respectable, that is to say, hard subjects. For example, an A in Maths, and another A in Further Maths reassures good universities that the place they offer a candidate is unlikely to be wasted. If one looks at the average offer extended to Oxbridge candidates it is A*AA (three As, one of them being A starred). That is what they must get in their exams to secure a place, the actual subjects depending on what discipline they wish to read.

Here is the official Department of Education summary of the ethnic success rate in most recent results for 3 A grades.

3 A grades or better at A level was achieved by 24% of Chinese students, 11% of Mixed students, 11% of White students, 11% of Other ethnic group students, 10% of Asian students and 5% of Black students.

Chinese students were consistently most likely to achieve 3 A grades or better at A level and Traveller of Irish Heritage students and Gypsy/Roma students were least likely to.

The summary is not entirely clear about mixed students. The detailed tables are hard to display, so I have made a simplified version. By the way, two things should be borne in mind when considering the numbers of ethnic students who gain entry to highly selective universities: the percentage of each ethnic group who reach the basal standard, and the actual size of the ethnic group.

3 As or better

Oxford and Cambridge offer roughly 6,600 undergraduate places in total, and roughly five times as many students apply as are accepted. So, 7600 white students who reach the minimal standard do not get admitted to Oxbridge every year. Tough luck.

Every statistic based on ethnicity is influenced by the immigration history of the nation in question. For example, Black British used to mean “from the West Indies”. These are the group who have had most time to get the benefits of life in the United Kingdom, and are almost all British born, using the NHS from conception and the education system throughout. Now the African population is larger than the Caribbean population, a consequence of recent mass migration. Many will have been born abroad.The Indians in the UK are drawn from particular populations, and India is heterogenous as regards ability.

Many people will find the statistics startling. Can it really be the case that only 62 Black Caribbean students achieve 3 A grades? Here is a very rough calculation: assume 594,825 Caribbeans in the UK. Assume that, as for other populations, only 2.33% of that population are of an age to go to university, and that all apply. Assume that the best estimate of Afro-Caribbean intelligence is 90, and that IQ 130 is the minimal Oxbridge entrance requirement. In that case there will be 53 qualified applicants. This estimate is in broad agreement with the observed figure.

The larger (and very probably pre-selected) African ethnic group seems a more promising pool for recruitment, if the requirement is simply that the candidate be of African genetics. The African group is bimodal in terms of occupational level: lots of professional African immigrants, plus lots who are unemployed. They are drawn from a vast population.

The table is also informative about racial admixture. The children of Whites have gained by mixing with Asian genetic groups (actual group unspecified) and lost somewhat when mixing with Black Africans and more so with Black Caribbeans. Interestingly, the White/Black Caribbean mix of 11% and 3% pass rates results in exactly a 7% pass rate for the mixed group.

It seems that British people do not blink when it is proposed that another genetic group should be granted extra privileges. There is no call for White British candidates to be put on the same footing as Chinese and Indian students. I suppose the supposition is that they are brighter or studied harder, probably both.

It might help the public debate about university entry if more people were to look at the official education statistics. The focus of discussion may one day move to secondary schools. Then, after a while, it may move to primary schools and then kindergartens. Since racial differences in ability can be detected at age 3, expect special measures to be required for kindergartens.

• Category: Science 
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  1. dearieme says:

    What perhaps I should explain to American readers is that admission at Oxbridge is not conducted by jacks-in-office. It’s conducted by college dons i.e. the academic staff who will be teaching those who are admitted. They have a great incentive to admit candidates who are bright and keen on their proposed subjects of study. Moreover, admissions are organised by individual colleges rather than the university as a whole, so you might hope that the oddities and prejudices of different interviewers and admission tutors might cancel out somewhat.

    Naturally you can’t expect prejudices to cancel out if they are widely held by donkind, but since the dons probably incline to the political left it’s not at all likely that they are operating some vast plot to keep out black students.

    At least, that’s how it was when I was involved. Nowadays there’s political pressure to favour blacks; quite how that’s going to work I don’t know. Is an admissions tutor going to overrule the advice of the people who interviewed the candidates and marked their examination scripts? What would happen then? Would a white student (or yellow, or brown, … or indeed African black rather than Caribbean black) who was thus discriminated against somehow be tipped off about what had happened and go to law? My guess is that admissions tutors would be leery of discriminating against a candidate that they suspect might come from a family equipped – not least financially – to go to the courts. So I suppose they’ll just pick on white boys from poor families. Ah, what socialism has morphed into, eh?

  2. If anyone wants to see the great David Lammy in action just click the link below

    A few weeks back he made a fool of himself again

    The problem for me is I can never decide who is worse, Diane Abbott or David Lammy

  3. Gordo says:

    If you break down the White group to gentiles and Jews, the people who suffer the greatest discrimination by far are White European gentiles.

    Some have even began to notice, but blinking will lose you your job, or even your liberty.

    Mr. Unz can supply all the details for Ivy League’s.

    • Replies: @gate666
  4. Edward says:

    Good piece. The furore over Oxford’s admissions statistics was, as usual, nonsensical. The Oxford statistics confirm that Blacks are perfectly represented at Oxford relative to the proportion of Blacks who get 3 As at A-Level.

    Once again, no mention of the fact that Chinese and Indian students are likely to be overrepresented in Oxbridge relative to their population size. This mirrors the reaction when the Government first published its statistics about ethnicity in October; claims of institutional racism were made, despite the fact that Chinese and Indian students did the best educationally from age 5-18, and despite the fact that Indians and Chinese have the highest incomes in the UK.

    Incidentally, the best and most recent estimate of group IQs in the UK – with by far the largest sample size to date – puts Chinese students at 107-108; mixed White/Asians at 103-104; Whites and Indians at around 100; Bangladeshis/Pakistanis at 94-95 and Blacks at 93-94 (not 90, as estimated in your piece). Helps to explain why Chinese students are way ahead of everyone else at A-Levels.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  5. @Edward

    Thanks. I should have linked to that, and here is the full set:

    Looking at the table again, I avoid reference groups with “other” or “mixed” in them, unless they specify who has been included.

    So, Black African 92, Black Caribbean 93.6. If I just look at Black Caribbeans and round up the mean to 94, then putting that into the same population figures would produce 114 Black Caribbeans above 130.

    However, if you are still with me, US Black IQ distributions are said to be narrower. This proves to be true in the UK sample. I think it would be appropriate to repeat the last calculation, but instead of doing it with white sd 15 take it down 1 point to sd 14. (In this sample actual white sd is 14.2, black sd 13.35, so about a 1 point difference.)

    That produces 70 Black Caribbean students above IQ 130.

    So, in summary, using the best figures for the means increases the predicted number, but using the correct standard deviation brings it back down, to roughly same ball park.

    • Replies: @Edward
    , @James N. Kennett
  6. Edward says:
    @James Thompson

    Brilliant. Now, if only the mainstream media would publish such figures. Even the right-wing mainstream media are being very careful not to mention IQ, instead blaming the low attainment of the top grades at A-Level in certain groups, classes and regions of the UK on the school system.

    Perhaps partly justified, as the shared environment does appear to explain more of the variance in educational attainment, relative to raw IQ. But, even then, genetics explains around 60% of the variance at GCSE level.

  7. res says:

    Is this article (courtesy of YetAnotherAnon in iSteve) representative of the discussion?

    • Replies: @James Thompson
  8. The school of origin makes a difference. Admissions to Oxbridge from the state system are confined to a small number of school. While a number of girls grammar schools mostly around London send a high proportion of pupils to Oxbridge, the big city grammar schools send the largest absolute numbers. Schools such as Hills Road VI form college Cambridge, Manchester Grammar and Edward VI Birmingham. The racial composition of these schools is an important factor in determining the same for Oxbridge (not to mention Durham, Bristol, Exeter and St Andrews). Apparently, Nottingham Metro attracts a high proportion of the less able privately educated. The quality of the accomodation is said to be very good.

  9. @dearieme

    Interesting comment. Also, the colleges are under pressure to get a good position in the inter-college results table (the Tompkins Table for Cambridge, Norrington Table for Oxford). They have a strong incentive to detect academic ability, even if the candidate is shy, tongue-tied, or from an unconventional background.

    If the real baseline is A*AA, not AAA; and if only a fraction of A*AA students are accepted; then the figures will be even less favourable for black candidates, because as the acceptance threshold is pushed towards higher IQs, the tail of a Gaussian IQ distribution centred at 90 (for blacks) will decline faster than that of a distribution centred at 100 (for whites).

    Now the difficult bit. How many black and mixed black/white candidates are actually accepted by Oxford and Cambridge? Compare this figure with the numbers who apply, and the numbers expected by calculations based on A-level results, and on group IQ. This analysis will identify whether the selection process is broken, and if so, where the fault lies.

    Though it is not yet acceptable to mention differences in group IQ in any public forum, at least this analysis could privately inform admissions tutors whether they are doing the best job they possibly can.

  10. @James Thompson

    It is interesting that Black Caribbeans have a slightly higher IQ than Black Africans, but do much less well at A-level.

    I read somewhere that among Black Caribbeans, girls do much better at school than boys. Perhaps there is some truth in the stereotype that boys tend to get drawn into gang culture, and are more likely to think studying is “un-cool”.

    • Replies: @James Thompson
    , @dearieme
    , @Jm8
  11. @James N. Kennett

    Agree that sex differences by race are an interesting issue, and may detect both sex-linked and cultural factors affecting scholastic attainment. The African versus Caribbean contrast should help tease out some of the cultural issues, but the picture is confused, as always, by doubts about the representativeness of Africans in the UK, probably slanted towards higher ability professional families.

  12. dearieme says:
    @James N. Kennett

    Long ago an acquaintance regaled me with the opinion of his wife who taught in a state secondary school with lots of Caribbean pupils. She lamented the frequency with which lads from respectable, pleasant families who had come elsewhere in the Caribbean were sucked into the vicious, violent culture of the Jamaicans.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  13. m___ says:

    With regard to educational achievement, and psychometric potential and realised versus waisted psychometric potential. The correlations between raw psychometric potential and the “real” world.

    Elephants that would make for meaningful analysis:

    – Group differences versus individual differences and their realised potential effect on society in forming groupings that are distinguisheable, homogenous, and organized across bounderies of ethnicity, territory, nations, religions, “left and right”, sex(Muslim men and high IQ women inside their own religious realm). “The attraction between equals of bright minds across borders of convention” as a force of syncronized policies.

    – The efficiency of selecting high IQ individuals. Fishing for high IQ individuals outside of the educational system. Migrations, a very important phenomenon, and here to stay, seem to suggest missing out on human potential scouting.
    Drop outs of all sorts, not stamped by the educational system, and later on discriminated against by conventional scouting for job qualifications, positions of authority, can they be considered “disposable” or a waist of resources.

    One of the arguments to attend the latter is the “danger” of outliers embedded in the “room temperature” bulk citizens blob. The internet, completely locked and controlled as far as to bulk humanity, still is exploitable to these outliers, and allows(to what extend) for sub-group building between them, making for a significant treat to conventional society. Assange is of course the out in the open example. The big question: how well can high IQ clusters, sub-groups, do without the bottom of financial support, reward, career, outside of conventionality. Can such atypical clusters source and influence convention(Assange and Wikileaks seems to have done for a while)? Which brings us to the next suggestion:

    – How linear is the correlation between “achievement”(financial gain over a lifetime, high enough to having a chance of becoming generational), and psychometrics. Our gut feeling is that at the right side of the population curve, there is little linearity to be found, i-f “waisted” talent is accounted for.

    – To add a burning question, how efficient is higher education in harnessing IQ into formal knowledge of any meaning. The discrepancy does seem to exist. A single example that spans a larger group of future elites: theoretical economics, financial capitalism tooling, or call it banking, if one agrees that the theoretics do not make any sense beyond persisting establishment and oligarchy, how can this be shoved into the throat of high IQ, creative, critical higher education students? How well do universities cater and then stimulate their top tier students.

    – Universal ethics(theoretics), and their correlation to IQ. That would explain high IQ individuals in Wall Street, an argument for agnostic a relationship between cognitive ability and financial gain. We suppose the high addiction rate between this sub-group of society could suggest “holding a contradiction in the mind and staying sane”.

    – Loyalty and IQ, any correlations there? Can it be explained why high IQ individuals have loyalties and a sense of group belonging that has other rallying points, not a genetic hardwired sense of belonging and secondly disregarding the need for rationality as projected on a high IQ mind, and making “belonging” basically a shopping choice. Hence the betrayal of WASP elites of a white majority of citizens, and adhering to Judaism thus forming mongrel elites. In short what is the glue, as correlated to IQ that could exist obviously.

    – One more: capital(access to it) and IQ, our suggestion: high IQ is worth zil without an existing network that has access to capital and scaling capital. Geniuses are a tool to mirror to the masses the promise of success and ego, but upward mobility suggests the opposite.

    – Minor, the concentric circle that emprisons high IQ, to the “native” group. And the confirmation that Judaism is on invitation only to the expendable high IQ gentiles.

    In short our interest in IQ is little adressed as to where things come together, where the disassembly of the correlations should start. The IQ factor in geo-politics, economics, sociology, policy making, where it could count. Our gut feeling suggests, and circonstantial empirical evidence does ditto: our elites are not on the extreme edge of cognitive ability to put it mildly.

    In one sentence, “how well do psychometrics scale(between individuals, in forming structures) at the high end”

  14. Oxford had Affirmative Action (against public/independent school pupils) when I was there in the early ’90s. I knew Abdus, a Bangladeshi student from a state comprehensive who was there with lower than normal A level grades, and watched a lot of TV in the JCR. I think he’d have been a lot happier at a somewhat lower ranking University (as would I).

  15. Jm8 says:
    @James N. Kennett

    African scores are a bit higher by the late high school (and presumably college) phase on the achievements tests which highly correlate to iq. The (modest) African-white gap (seen in both IQ scores—which are from age 11—and the correlated GCSEs at the same age stage KS2) shrinks somewhat (with variation in performance between the African groups) by high school (GCSE stage KS4)—as does the white-Pakistani/Bangladeshi gap—. But the initially similar White-Caribbean gap (of about one half a standard deviation/ca. 6-7 points) does not—or not as much), perhaps (at least in part) due to some of the social and cultural factors mentioned in response to your comment (gang culture, anti-academic attitudes among some. etc) (Chanda Chisala also discussed some of this in his articles here; the performances of certain African and other minority groups in the Uk—and the a lesser extent US—etc)

    “”Minority Ethnic Pupils in the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England
    Extension Report on Performance in Public Examinations at Age 16
    Dr Steve Strand”

    “Some gaps change very little. For example the relative gap associated with social class, mother’s educational qualifications and entitlement to a FSM did not change substantially over the three time points. Other gaps did show substantial change. For example the gender gap increases significantly, from less than 0.07 SD at KS2 to 0.23 SD by the end of KS4, with the largest shift occurring between KS3 and KS4. The gaps for some ethnic groups decrease substantially, for example Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black African mean scores were significantly below the White British mean at KS2 and KS3 but these gaps narrowed to less than 0.1 SD by the end of KS4, again with the big change happening during KS4.”(Steve Strand)

    The GCSE key stage 4 (high school) scores are taken around the age of sixteen (and have risen from earlier phases). The iq scores given are from a younger age group (11) and more closely match Group performances at the same age GCSE evaluation stage (KS2/Key stage 2 at age 11)

    • Replies: @Jm8
    , @Jm8
  16. Jm8 says:

    Edit: “…African (and some other minority group) scores are a bit higher by the late high school (and presumably college) phase than at the earlier phase referenced/than earlier ages (perhaps in part due to increasing cultural assimilation into/familiarity with British culture/norms toward later ages).”

  17. Jm8 says:

    “……perhaps (at least in part) due to some of the social and cultural factors mentioned in response to your comment (gang culture, anti-academic/anti-intellectual attitudes among some Caribbeans—perhaps esp. the Jamaicans—there. etc)

    • Replies: @dearieme
  18. dearieme says:

    By the way, the tale of the acquaintance’s wife was one you never saw in the newspapers. Everyone knew that Caribbean youths were more prone to violence and crime than – for example – white or Hindu youths. Explicit acknowledgement of this was rare but certainly did show up from time to time in the papers. Intelligent, analytical discussion of the problem, however, just didn’t seem to happen.

    • Replies: @Jm8
  19. Jm8 says:

    Yes, some of the other Afro-Caribbean groups (e.g. esp. Barbadians, and Bahamians, Bermudians and perhaps Trinidadians) seem to generally have less/somewhat less dysfunctional cultures in those respects. In the UK, the Jamaicans are the majority of the Caribbean population.

    • Replies: @Philip Owen
  20. But is there any evidence that black applicants who were not admitted to Oxford subsequently went on to other universities and had outstanding academic success indicating that they probably would have done well at Oxford (or Cambridge) which are universities that attempt to preselect at a young age people who will be the societal leaders of the future and let them get to know each other.

  21. dearieme says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    Evidence? Bourgeois jackal! Fascist lickspittle! Etc, etc, etc.

  22. Factorize says:

    For thousands of years, an educational system based on physical infrastructure, real world interactions and a clear hierarchy based on achievement has been globally predominant. Until recently, it would have been difficult to argue with the logic and success of this model.

    And then the internet arrived.

    Education is being dramatically reconfigured. A recent report noted that there has been a decline by 1 million students attending a physical US campus in the last 5 years. This decline has been counteracted by large increases in online learning. Further many of those who are physically present on a campus are also taking online courses (sometimes even from the same University that they are physically attending). One would imagine that those early morning courses starting at 7 in the morning likely now have sparse attendance.

    It is also not merely a question of where students are studying, but what. The overwhelming choice that is now being offered is allowing students to study subjects that they are actually passionate about instead of being presented with highly generic course material. It is nonsensical to believe that this will not dramatically increase academic achievement. I doubt if anyone could say that they do not remember other students who were entirely disengaged with academic learning, while apparently having near eidetic memory for music lyrics or entertainment scripts. Moving these students to subjects they actually have an interest in would greatly improve their career prospects.

    I would have loved having the chance to study the mathematics behind psychometrics. Yet, possibly due to the politically sensitive nature of the topic, it is not clear to me whether typical universities would even offer this. Perhaps this is the compromise that was arrived at: we believe in free speech, though topics that make everyone uncomfortable can simply go away by not having a context in which they could be recognized and discussed.

    Virtual education opens up the opportunity of nearly infinite level of choice. A physical school will never be able to offer a similar selection. Clearly for some, too much choice could become a problem. Further, allowing students the chance to have an essentially personalized education would end the social connections that naturally form as students struggle together to master their generic course offerings.

    The highly competitive nature of online education also greatly changes the power relationship between student and school. I have been astonished at how innovative my online University has been. I have made requests for them to change their procedures that I would never have even bothered making in a physical context because it is apparent who had the high ground in the relationship. Now my requests are answered with comprehensive explanations of why existing procedures need to be maintained and what efforts are being made to modernize these procedures. I realize that changing various rules can have substantial real world importance. Entire industries have developed on the basis of some of these rules. Online universities are fully aware that if they do not embrace innovation, someone else will, and natural selection will take it from there.

    Given the above considerations and several others, for the first time in the last few thousands years, a new form of instruction has emerged that outcompetes the model of learning based on place.

    • Replies: @hyperbola
  23. hyperbola says:

    It might also be relevant for both Brit and non-Brit readers to remember the history of university education in Britain. OxBridge were initally founded as theological schools, i.e. had a much narrower focus than many continental european universities founded in the early Middle Ages (especially in France, Italy and Spain).

    OxBridge then became centers for the children of the elite for many centuries. In fact, 600 years went by before a new university with a focus on the general population was founded (University College London). This is in keeping with the fact that Britain was poor and backwards compared with european countries until about 300 years ago and with the practice of the Brit elite of generally keeping the population uneducated. In fact even the Mexicans and Peruvians founded modern style Universities three centuries before the Brits.

    Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico

    Given that many universities in Britain have recently been (surreptitiously) privatized and sold to (American) companies known for educational fraud, it seems that the Brit elite is again prioritizing poor education for the general population. Perhaps this is behind the the sort of dumbing down “big data statistics” that this article represents.

  24. hyperbola says:

    Of course, many of the on-line “universities” have been found to be scam artists that do not offer education of quality.

    For Profit Online Colleges Named in Government Investigation of Education Fraud, Deceptive Marketing

    ‘World’s Largest University’ Is Scamming Students, Investigation Reveals
    ….A global network of fraudulent online universities is using high-pressure sales tactics and phony scholarships to extract money from students who end up with worthless degrees…..

  25. hyperbola says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    Ah yes – the famous (jewish) Brit elite system – got to network the children at an early age.

    Remains rife at OxBridge. I remember once sitting at high table in an Oxford College and having scabby, old “academics” sitting to the left and right of me, both of whom claimed that their college appartment was that once used by Robert Hooke. Seemed to be their main (only) claim to fame.

    I also remember the son of the farm manager (for the local lord) who was a friend when the Brits were teaching me to chant 2×2=4, 2×3=6, ……., who later told me that for his entire life he worked for American companies (e.g. IBM) because as a farmer’s son he had a glass ceiling in Britain.

    • Replies: @Jonathan Mason
  26. Factorize says:

    Yes, this is very true about diploma mills. I suspect that held back online learning for about 10 years. People needed time to develop confidence that their academic efforts would be socially recognized and valued. Some of the early characterizations in the media space obviously led me to question the legitimacy of virtual education. However, the latest numbers suggest that these issues have been widely understood to have been addressed. It is quite startling how fast education is adapting to reality (i.e., virtual reality).

    What was especially noteworthy about the recent report on online and on site learning was the rapid decline in for profit universities in America. There was a 40% decline over a 4 year period. As a guess what is happening is the type of innovation that the for profits introduced is now being copied by public and private non profit universities or perhaps people now have a much larger choice of studying with an accredited University.

    My impression had been that education was simply too far removed from real world constraints to ever make accommodations. Yet more social decline and yet more school violence by children has not in any way resulted in any creative approaches to stop the violence. The main innovation that has been implemented is a militarization of our school system. People of conscience need to create the motivating inertia that will give our children their childhoods back by withdrawing them from physical schools. It is now very clear that demography can be a highly effective tool for social change. All Western nations are undergoing demographic collapse, it would not take much of an effort to remake education. The reform movement is actually behind the responses made by government. Recently specialty high schools have emerged to better suit the academic programs to the interests of students.

    The psychometric conveyor belt that transported some of the most highly intelligent children to particular buildings to continue their educations might now be ending. This cognitive sorting process has likely been ongoing for thousands of years, though surprisingly it only became fully operational in America starting in the 1960s. Clearly this will be of substantial interest to psychometricians.

  27. @hyperbola

    Given that many universities in Britain have recently been (surreptitiously) privatized and sold to (American) companies known for educational fraud, it seems that the Brit elite is again prioritizing poor education for the general population.

    Can you explain what you mean by this? I haven’t heard of this trend.

  28. @dearieme

    And not even all the Jamaicans. Rural Jamaicans are also hard working and respectable. Somehow Kingston poisons them all.

    • Replies: @Jm8
  29. @Jm8

    As an apprentice in the early 1970’s I lodged in the immigrant area of Rugby. The key question between Afro-Caribbeans was “Which I’lan’ you from?”.

  30. @Jonathan Mason

    Durham was not notably populated with Afro-Caribbean rejects from Oxbridge spectacularly outperforming. The D of Doxbridge is a place for the sons and daughters of African chiefs not British plebs. The socialists were very upset by one Ugandan was argued strongly for Trade not Aid and capitalist solutions well before it was mainstream in the development debate. Cardiff gets it place in the Russell Group from its overseas, especially Muslim, students. It is their first choice. Cardiff had the UK’s first mosque over 130 years ago. It set a tradition. It’s a sort of anti Doxbridge with the lowest proportion of public school pupils applying of any Russell Group university. But children of Malaysian sultans and Arab sheiks …

  31. anon[217] • Disclaimer says:

    It’s amazing to me that admission to Oxbridge is determined by a good old fashion interview after the grades make the cuts, and even more impressive that the interviews are conducted by the faculty. Here in the States a known complaint among elite college faculty is the deteriorating quality of students admitted by the admissions office, which routinely puts race, connection, athletic ability, social activism and political ideology above actual academic achievement. The faculty are then pressured to inflate the grades so as not to harm the self-esteem of the mediocre admits. Harvard is esp. notorious for its grade inflation, the average grade is an A- and 90% of their students graduate with honors each year. Only 5% of elite college admits in the US got in solely based on academic achievement, the remaining 95% got in through some sort of “hook” — wealth, connection, race, athletics, social activism.

    Attacks on Oxbridge’s admission as elitist and perpetuating privilege are completely off the mark, since it is in fact the most meritocratic system that allows the smartest to rise to the top regardless of family background. It is the US system of holistic admission that is truly perpetuating privilege with its opacity. I sincerely hope those who run Oxbridge have the courage and wherewithal to stand by their existing high meritocratic admission standards. At the end of the day, the people hurt the most by affirmative action are blacks who qualified on their own merit. Everyone else will assume they are just affirmative action beneficiaries.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  32. gate666 says:

    i dont think there are large number of jewish students in britain.

  33. @hyperbola

    I also remember the son of the farm manager (for the local lord) who was a friend (in elementary school) who later told me that for his entire life he worked for American companies (e.g. IBM) because as a farmer’s son he had a glass ceiling in Britain.

    Having grown up in post-war Britain myself, I find it hard to believe that UK computer companies were discriminating against employing talented farmer’s sons in senior positions. The supply of talented scions of the landowning aristocracy was simply insufficient, and they were not in that field anyway.

    Several of my in-laws are farmers and/or sons of farmers and I have never heard of farmer-discrimination in the UK.

    • Replies: @dearieme
  34. @res

    Well, it is The Guardian, but other papers do not mention intelligence or, in the little I have seen, the relevant figures I have give here for AAA students.

  35. dearieme says:

    “It might also be relevant for both Brit and non-Brit readers to remember the history of university education in Britain.”

    Indeed; and it might be relevant if you remembered it too.

    You seem to have suppressed the existence of the universities of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh.

    • Agree: Wizard of Oz
  36. dearieme says:

    “It’s amazing to me that admission to Oxbridge is determined by a good old fashion interview after the grades make the cut”: alas, the grades in national examinations have suffered from grade inflation over the years so the Colleges often supplement them with entrance exams of their own. They sometimes call them “tests” in case they are accused of turning the clock back.

    Of course in matters of education turning the clock back would often be a wise thing to do.

    One caveat: it’s years since I was involved in all this. I think, though, that I’d have heard if it had all been turned upside down.

    One idle remark: I have known candidates rave about what fun the interview was, even candidates who thought they hadn’t shone. It made me wonder whether such youngsters had perhaps never before been asked questions suitable to their intellects, and then had their answers taken seriously by clever adults. Is that a sad thought or a cheering one?

  37. dearieme says:
    @Jonathan Mason

    Quite right, Jonathan; the story is pish.

  38. DFH says:

    Imagine being so envious of British accomplishments that you have to spam this nonsense everywhere.

  39. Jm8 says:
    @Philip Owen

    (from what I have read and seen) I think you are likely correct (re: rural and small town Jamaicans, and re: Kingston)

  40. @hyperbola

    Britain, from about the 10th century anyway, was never poor compared with other European countries and the the great rise during which Britain was main crucible of Scientific, Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions started about 500 years ago, not 300. Bacon’s Essays were more than 400 years ago and the Royal Society was founded over 350 years ago. BTW can you name a university anywhere whose teaching or supported research contributed significantly to science before perhaps Cambridge about 350 years ago in the case of one Isaac Newton of whom you may have heard?

  41. Oxbridge is much more thoroughly and honestly meritocratic than the Ivies – certainly Harvard. You don’t get in as a legacy candidate and willingness to put up $250,000 a year in support of the offspring’s entry will neither be inquired about nor accepted.

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