Target minorities, Oxford urged

6th February 1998 at 00:00
Oxford University should set and monitor targets for the number of state-school and ethnic-minority pupils it admits, recommends the report of the commission on the university's future.

"Oxford could be more successful in attracting the ablest students from across British society as a whole," said Sir Peter North, chairman of the commission which was set up by the university.

The 250-page report from Sir Peter, a former Oxford vice-chancellor, shows that, between 1992 and 1996, only 22 per cent of ethnic-minority applicants were admitted, against 29 per cent from the lowest three socio-economic groups and 34 per cent for all applicants. About 44 per cent of Oxford's intake is from state schools.

It recommends that a powerful new committee should set targets, not quotas, for ethnic-minority and state-school pupils, which should be reviewed every five years. Sir Peter said that Oxford is firmly committed to equality of opportunity and that "as always, more could be done". However, the commission does not want overall student numbers to grow by more than 1 per cent a year.

It rejects modular courses or moving from the current eight-week terms to 15-week semesters. But it does call for more reliance on continuous assessment and annual exams and less emphasis on final exams.

The report also says dons should be graded on their teaching performance and that greater emphasis should be placed on teaching ability when recruiting academics.

Most of the report is concerned with streamlining the central administration but it says the colleges should retain their independence and that the tutorial system should stay.

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