Harvard’s 2011 intake of African-Americans and Latino’s (11.8% and 12.1% respectively) should be applauded for setting a new high in admission numbers of underrepresented students. This is however in stark contrast to Oxford’s 2009 admittance of just 27 undergraduate black students out of 2,653 undergraduates (source). Indeed, out of the roughly 3,000 students admitted last year (2010) to Oxford, about 90% were white (source).
The issue drew the attention of the British PM David Cameron (source). Yet representation of poor students is also lacking at Oxford where only 40 students who received free school meals were accepted by Oxford last year (source).
Underrepresentation of minority groups is not an issue unique to the world’s leading universities. Many groups have historically been underrepresented in higher education worldwide, including not only minority groups, but also women. There have certainly been much advancement in this area, yet it is also clear that much more must be done to address disparities in access to higher education.
Diversity in education is not just a matter of equality. In an increasingly globalized world, exposure to diversity, including to all people of varying race, religion and income levels, is important to enhance the learning experience. We encourage all higher education institutions to look at what they are denying students in their learning experiences by not encouraging a more diverse student body.
From this aspect, University of the People is proud to have accepted students from over 115 different countries, who hail with backgrounds of different races, religions and income levels. We believe it greatly enhances the peer to peer learning incorporated in the pedagogy if students can share experiences stemming from diverse backgrounds. What are your thoughts on diversity in education and learning?