(Matthew Goodwin) Britain, we are often told, is a deeply racist and intolerant society, in which sinister ‘power structures’ hold back minority ethnic groups, while the white majority push selfishly ahead. Yet new data flies in the face of this fashionable narrative.
Following a national drive to make undergraduate intakes more ‘diverse’, figures released on Thursday by the Department for Education showed that, for the first time, white young people are now proportionately the least likely of all major ethnic groups to attend our top universities.
Among Britain’s Chinese families, some 40.7 per cent of their youngsters made it to Oxford, Cambridge and others in the elite Russell Group in 2020-21. The figures for Asian young people were 16 per cent. It was 10.7 per cent for black families — and just 10.5 per cent among white ones.
Of course, in some ways, this is an inspirational success story. That children from non-white backgrounds are thriving in Britain’s educational system is something to celebrate.
Commendable, too, are our universities’ efforts to make their student intakes more diverse. Many of these establishments are world-leading and it is right they should be open to anyone with the brains and aptitude to succeed in them.
Given the disparity between the ethnic background of undergraduates at our elite universities and the country at large, our institutions risk looking as if they are more interested in promoting diversity than in shaping the minds of our brightest youngsters whatever their race.
The diversity drive is only part of the story: culture plays a huge role, too. One of the reasons that children from black African families are doing so much better in attending top universities is because their parents are often particularly focused on education.
They put a strong emphasis on family and have low rates of divorce. Such stability helps children flourish.
In contrast, poor, white, working-class communities experience far higher rates of family breakdown, as well as other challenges that jeopardise academic success, from addiction to joblessness and mental and physical health problems. Nevertheless, much of the problem does lie firmly with the universities.
Not so long ago, Oxford, Cambridge and their like were revered centres of learning where young people could expand their horizons and learn to think critically.
Today, they all too often resemble woke citadels, where academics are harassed or sacked if they fail to hold the ‘correct’ views on issues including Brexit, gender and the legacy of the British Empire.
My research has shown that about 80 per cent of academics lean to the Left (((anti-white))) politically.
The small minority who lean to the Right are far more likely to experience political discrimination and to ‘self-censor’, or hide, their real views on campus.
But if our universities really want to pursue racial equality, they should take a look at some other statistics released this week by the Department for Education.
These revealed the numbers of young people who go to university at all — not just the elite institutions. The results were even more striking. Fully 81 per cent of Chinese children, almost 66 per cent of Asian children and 48 per cent of mixed-race children go to any university nowadays.
The figure for white children? Just 40 per cent.
The numbers are even more damning when you look at the details. Among children who receive free school meals — that is, the white working-class — only 13.6 per cent go to university.
The only ethnic groups with even fewer children making it to university are Roma and Traveller Gipsy communities.
Why are young white working-class children being let down so badly?
Last year, I found some answers as I advised the Government’s Education Committee. We produced a report highlighting how decades of neglect and muddled policy thinking have contributed to this sorry state of affairs.
But few among the metropolitan Twitterati, who cling to the notion that Britain is ‘institutionally racist’, are willing to speak up for the white working class, let alone the universities who peddle the same eccentric worldview.
In March, Nottingham University withdrew an honorary degree from Tony Sewell, the black educational consultant who had been appointed to chair a race commission by Boris Johnson
While it’s vital that our universities do all they can to attract promising youngsters from every background, the Education Committee’s report was clear. The pendulum has swung too far the other way.
We made particular mention of the dubious arguments that have been imported from the U.S. and are now swirling around our education system. These would have you believe most Britons benefit from ‘white privilege’ — and should apologise for who they are.
These ideas are not supported by empirical evidence. Indeed, they may have contributed directly to the neglect of white working-class pupils.
And the problem is getting worse. Only this week, the Don’t Divide Us group found nearly one in four local councils are actively promoting a divisive brand of ‘anti-racism’ in schools, pushing concepts such as ‘white privilege’ and ‘unconscious bias’ into the classroom.
Meanwhile, the think-tank Neon has produced a report showing how, although universities have many initiatives to attract minority groups, they simply don’t invest nearly the same amount of money and energy into encouraging white working-class children.
That was the university’s right, of course. But Nottingham had no problem expanding its reach into China and handing out honorary degrees to leading Chinese Communists
This hypocritical disparity was never more apparent than in 2018, when the millionaire rapper Stormzy announced he was funding a scheme to provide scholarships for black students studying at Cambridge.
Good for him. But the following year, philanthropist Sir Bryan Thwaites’s attempts to fund similar scholarships for poor white students were turned down by both Dulwich College and Winchester College — two of Britain’s top private schools — for fear that it would be regarded as racial discrimination.
The double standards are glaring.
But the woke brigade brooks no criticism — even, or perhaps especially, from the very minorities it purports to represent. In March, Nottingham University withdrew an honorary degree from Tony Sewell, the black educational consultant who had been appointed to chair a race commission by Boris Johnson, and who had challenged the claim that Britain is ‘institutionally racist’.
That was the university’s right, of course. But Nottingham had no problem expanding its reach into China and handing out honorary degrees to leading Chinese Communists.
Other universities are equally willing to take money from the ghouls of Beijing — a regime that is torturing and enslaving Uighur Muslims as I write — while performatively obsessing over ‘decolonising’ their curriculums and tying themselves in knots over the role some of their historic benefactors may or may not have played in the Transatlantic slave trade.
This hypocritical disparity was never more apparent than in 2018, when the millionaire rapper Stormzy announced he was funding a scheme to provide scholarships for black students studying at Cambridge
We need to challenge this dangerous and divisive woke ideology — one that is spinning such a misleading picture of modern Britain. Ours is not an institutionally racist country: quite the opposite.
As the latest statistics suggest, it is one of the best places in the world to be a member of an ethnic minority.
At the same time, we need to speak up loudly for white working-class children and recognise that the noble aim of increasing diversity in the classroom and the lecture hall — especially when couched in the language of ‘oppression’ and ‘white privilege’ — has costs as well.
Only by doing these things will we ensure that yet another generation of white working-class children do not find themselves so unfairly left behind — and watch aghast as our universities become even less representative of the country at large.