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Cameron Launches Attack On "Disgraceful" Racial Bias At UK Institutions

The prime minister will force universities to reveal how many black and ethnic minority students they have and has announced a review into apparent racial bias in the justice system.

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The Radcliffe Camera building at Oxford University.
Oli Scarff / Getty Images

The Radcliffe Camera building at Oxford University.

Universities will be forced to publish the number of black and ethnic minority students they have in an effort to tackle "disgraceful" racial discrimination, David Cameron has said.

Separately, the prime minister has asked Labour MP David Lammy to lead a review into apparent discrimination in UK courts, which leads to black people being given longer prison sentences than white people found guilty of the same crime.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Cameron pointed out that at the University of Oxford, his alma mater, just 27 black students were part of an intake of over 2,500 students in 2014. "I don't care whether it's overt, unconscious, or institutional – we've got to stamp it out," he wrote.

"I know the reasons are complex, including poor schooling, but I worry that the university I was so proud to attend is not doing enough to attract talent from across our country."

He added: "We don't need politically correct, contrived and unfair solutions. Quotas don't fix the underlying problems. To succeed we must be far more demanding of our institutions, and be relentless in the pursuit of creative answers."

Announcing Lammy's review into the justice system, Cameron said: "If you're black, you're more likely to be in a prison cell than studying at a top university. And if you're black, it seems you're more likely to be sentenced to custody for a crime than if you're white.

"We should investigate why this is and how we can end this possible discrimination."

David Lammy, who will lead a review into the UK justice system.
Sky News

David Lammy, who will lead a review into the UK justice system.

Lammy, who practised as a barrister for several years before becoming an MP in 2000 and is a former universities minister, praised Cameron for instigating a cross-party drive against discrimination in universities and courtrooms in the UK.

He will now speak to judges, prison governors, and young offenders' institutes to figure out what can be done. Speaking on Sky News, he said: "There was a point a few years ago that there were more young people with the surname Smith at Oxford than there were black students. We can do better."

He added: "You go to court, you're found guilty, it's the same charge, but the incident if you are Muslim, if you are black, is that you will have a longer time in prison and that needs to be looked at and examined in detail."

Lord Falconer, Labour's shadow justice secretary, said he "wished David Lammy well" in leading the review: "With black and ethnic minorities currently making up more than a quarter of prisoners and still more likely to receive custodial sentences than white offenders, it is clear that action needs to be taken.

"It is now important that the government ensures this review leads to real change."

Lammy will present his findings in spring 2017.

Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.

Contact Jamie Ross at

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