OXFORD University has defended itself after criticisms from America’s Reverend Jesse Jackson.

The prominent civil rights campaigner criticised the university – along with Cambridge – for being too white and too full of wealthy students.

ThE appeared at the Oxford Union on Tuesday night.

But in a response to the criticisms yesterday, a spokesman for Oxford University said: “We spend £4.5 million a year on outreach work to encourage students from all socio-economic and ethnic-minority backgrounds to apply to Oxford.

“To remain a world-class university, we need to recruit the best students, so it is not in our interests to exclude particular groups.”

The university has also taken issue with the figures the reverend cited in his criticisms.

“Rev Jackson criticises Oxford for only admitting six black Caribbean students out of the 35 who applied in 2009, but in fact this success rate is line with the success rate of all applicants to Oxford,” the spokesman said.

“School attainment is the main barrier to getting more black students to Oxford.

“In 2009, nearly half of all black students in the UK who received at least 3 As applied to Oxford, compared with 28 per cent of white students with these grades.

“We hope that talented black students, and their parents and teachers, will visit Oxford on one of our open days and consider applying to study here.”