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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Research Projects

Publication details

Boliver, V. (2018). Ethnic Inequalities in Admission to Highly Selective Universities. In Dismantling Race in Higher Education: Racism, Whiteness and Decolonising the Academy. Arday, J. & Safia-Mirza, H. Cham Palgrave MacMillan. 67-85.

Author(s) from Durham


Growing diversity within Higher Education (HE), rather than producing a more inclusive higher education, has resulted in a segregated and increasingly polarised system. In the United Kingdom (UK) we are maintaining, and further strengthening, a university hierarchy built on class and race in which upper and upper middle class pursuit of the educational exclusivity they experienced in private and selective state schooling has relegated both Black and White working classes to the universities that the more privileged do not want to attend. As a consequence, new opportunities for BME students have diminishing value because they are studying in low ranking universities with ‘too many’ students like them. However, this chapter focuses on the role the elite universities, and, in particular, Oxbridge, play in preserving a university system that remains exclusive and excluding at the top of its hierarchy. High achieving Black students struggle to gain admission, while the few BME students, particularly those from working class backgrounds, who do make it to the elite institutions are having to manage a range of challenges. They can experience marginalization, a sense of being ‘out-of-place’ and insidious, as well as more overt, forms of racism. This chapter focuses on the repercussions of being outsiders in a white elite culture, and makes the argument for institutional change.

Department of Sociology