Nick Clegg is wrong on Oxbridge and free school lunches

by Stephen Tall on April 5, 2011

An otherwise intelligently realistic article jointly authored by Nick Clegg and Iain Duncan Smith in today’s Telegraph is let down by a glaring inaccuracy:

Millions of children have doors closed to them. One in five qualify for school meals – but they make up fewer than one in 100 students at Oxbridge.

Quite simply this isn’t true (at least for the ‘Ox’ part of Oxbridge).

At Oxford, there are currently 930 undergraduate students from households with an income below £16,000, one of the key qualifying criteria for free school meals. The total UK and EU undergraduate population at Oxford is c.10,300 — which means almost 10 per cent of current undergraduates at the University of Oxford come from households eligible for free school meals. This compares with 15% of secondary school pupils currently eligible for free school meals.

If you want to understand how the one-in-a-hundred figure achieved currency, here’s Channel 4’s Fact-Check — which fails to get to the facts, but does at least give us the history of this inaccurate statistic.

None of this is to say Oxford doesn’t still have a job to do in ensuring all students with talent are encouraged to apply. But that job is made that much harder every time politicians repeat inaccurate statistics which make out that the University is an unapproachable ivory tower.

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6 comments

New post: Nick Clegg is wrong on Oxbridge and free school lunches http://bit.ly/e5P0zH

by Stephen Tall on April 5, 2011 at 12:25 pm. Reply #

And with that 10-fold increase you’ll be able to charge fees of £9000.

by Joe Otten on April 5, 2011 at 12:32 pm. Reply #

Surprising statistic of the day: ten times more poor children at Oxford University than you (and @nick_clegg) think: http://is.gd/bIHwzZ

by Niklas Smith on April 5, 2011 at 2:55 pm. Reply #

Oxbridge News: Nick Clegg is wrong on Oxbridge and free school lunches …: Quite simply this isn't true (at lea… http://bit.ly/eAARDU

by Oxbridge Education on April 5, 2011 at 5:47 pm. Reply #

The actual figure of FSM children at Oxford is closer to 10% than the oft-misquoted 1/100 politicians like to use: http://t.co/nCNmpULz

by Stephen Tall on May 22, 2012 at 8:23 am. Reply #

Stephen

I must take issue with your assertion that:

“an income below £16,000, (is) one of the key qualifying criteria for free school meals”

In practise many parents earning less than £16040 per year are entitled to Working Tax Credit, and thus become ineligible for free school meals.

The principle qualifying criteria are the others listed on your link:

Income Support
Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
the Guarantee element of State Pension Credit

If your figures are solely based on the qualifying income figure of £16k then you are as likely to be drawing unreasonable conclusions as you assert Nick and IDS have.

by Nick Noble on May 22, 2012 at 9:39 am. Reply #

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