Privately educated white boys are disadvantaged in university admissions due to culture war over ‘privilege’, Cambridge academic says as he suggests removing school names from applications

  • David Abulafia said privately educated white boys are being disadvantaged
  • The Cambridge academic said ‘culture wars’ are impacting Oxbridge admissions
  • He said schools should not be listed on applications, to tackle ‘imagined class’

A Cambridge academic has suggested that privately educated white boys are being disadvantaged in the Oxbridge university admissions process due to ‘culture wars’ over ‘privilege’.

David Abulafia, a fellow of Gonville and Caius College, has suggested that to combat the ‘disapproval’ of white, male candidates, school names should be removed from the application.

He said that by listing their private school, students are penalised ‘for their parent’s choice’ — and ‘betrays’ principles on which Cambridge has ‘flourished’.

The emeritus professor of Mediterranean history at the University of Cambridge said that between 2014 and 2021, Eton’s admissions to Oxbridge halved, puzzling its leaders.

David Abulafia has suggested that to combat the ‘disapproval’ of white, male candidates, school names should be removed from the application 

Writing in The Spectator, Professor Abulafia said: ‘It is vital to remember that admitting students is all about individuals.

‘University admissions have become another site for culture wars in which “white”, “male” and “privileged” are terms of disapproval, linked together to justify injustice.’

The Professor argued that ‘imagined class’ should not determine whether an applicant is granted a place, and suggested removing school names from applications. 

He claimed that ‘the really disadvantaged candidates are arguably the white males from outstanding independent schools’ and said that the often go to Russell Group universities instead, such as Bristol, Durham and St Andrews.

Professor Abulafia said white males from outstanding independent schools are the ‘really disadvantaged candidates’. He is a fellow of Gonville and Caius College (pictured)

Last week, Stephen Toope, vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, told The Times: ‘We have to make it very, very clear we are intending to reduce over time the number of people who are coming from independent school backgrounds into places like Oxford or Cambridge’. 

Professor Abulafia said that choosing state school applicants over ‘well-qualified competitors from private schools’ has become more ‘obvious’ in the last few years, but has been happening for a long time. 

Targets for state school admissions is now around 75 per cent, with Professor Abulafia stating that state school entry will rise as expected as more students match the performance of their privately-educated counterparts. 

However he claimed that there is some level of ‘positive discrimination’ towards state-educated applicants, and ‘negative discrimination’ towards privately taught students. 

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