Oxford and Cambridge universities are now teaching almost 1,000 fewer British undergrad students than they were teaching five years ago, regardless of spending millions on academic programmes designed particularly to increase student participation and domestic student intake.

Figures by the British higher education statistics agency indicate that Oxford and Cambridge were nearly alone among other rival British universities as they were taking in fewer British undergrad students and had failed to increase and expand the intake of domestic students in undergraduate programmes, while gradually increasing sought-out places for students wishing to study in EU and other international students.

Oxford and Cambridge defended their student records stating British applicants were more likely to secure a spot in undergraduate courses than international students, regardless of the sharp increases in the number of applicants from other nationalities.

Oxford said its undergraduate student body was part of its mission to educate and attract the most talented students across the globe. “We are committed to our role in broadening participation in higher education and doing what it takes to make the university more open and diverse, and are making headway with this work,” a university spokesperson said. Figures provided by the Oxford University indicated that nearly one in four UK applicants were offered seats in the varsity, compared with one in 100 for non- EU and international applicants.

The spokesperson for Cambridge also defended their student figures and said: “The University has made significant progress in all its widening participation measures over the same period. The university accepts students on merit, regardless of their background.”

Statistics that were first published by the BBC presents an opposing picture and highlight how Cambridge had reduced the number of domestic student intakes in undergraduate programmes by 480 since 2007-08, while Oxford had reduced the intake by 700 during the same years. However, other British universities including Bristol and Exeter have increased domestic student intakes by more than 50 percent over the course of time.

Moreover, critics including Labour party and Sutton Trust also argue that Oxbridge’s top priority should be enrolling UK applicants, given the huge number of students the two varsities attract on a domestic level. “Our world-class universities should be there for all of us, not just the wealthiest and privileged, and urgent action is clearly needed to ensure they are open to talented students regardless of their background,” said Angela Rayner, the shadow education secretary.

The strong international standing of the Oxbridge can be highlighted from the latest QS world university rankings by subject, which revealed Oxford as the highest performing British university securing five of the top places in the list. Oxford was named the best university for several subjects, including English language and literature, pharmacy and pharmacology, archaeology, anthropology and geography, while Cambridge secured the number one spot for anatomy and physiology.

The overall performance of British universities was satisfactory in the QS rankings 2019, with British universities securing top spots in 13 out of 48 subject areas in this year’s rankings.

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