While Oxford draws criticism for the racial profile of its intake, Harvard’s latest admissions figures show that 11.8% of its new students for this autumn will be African-American and 12.1% Latino – thought to be record proportions of the two minority groups.Among the 2009 intake, 10.8% of students at Harvard were African-American, compared with 8.2% at Princeton, and 7% at Yale. To put the data in some context, African-American students made up 14% of US college enrolments in 2008.The MP and former higher education minister David Lammy suggests that part of the reason Harvard does better on race is that it writes to every high-achieving minority student. The Ivy League institution is proud of its outreach, sending admissions officers every year to schools in every US state.Its ethnic minority recruitment is assisted by a team of undergraduates who handle campus visits and answer questions on academic life.In its defence, Oxford can point to 1,500 school outreach events it conducted in 2009, of which 80% were in the state sector. Applications from state-educated candidates have been rising for the past decade and high-achieving black candidates are more likely to apply to Oxford than their white peers – suggesting that its outreach is stimulating demand.However, Harvard also appears to do better than elite universities here on a key indicator of encouraging poorer students. In 2008-09 the proportion of students on federal Pell grants at Harvard was 15%.By contrast, data collated by the Sutton Trust charity indicates the percentages of pupils eligible for free school meals at leading English universities range from 0.8% at Oxford and Cambridge to 5.3% at King’s College, London.In a study last year, the Sutton Trust noted “that the American Ivy League may be enrolling higher proportions of low income students”.This better showing on poverty may boost Harvard’s figures on race. Pell grants, awarded by federal government based on an assessment of family size, income, assets and tuition costs, are crucial to the social advancement of African-Americans.About 46% of African-American undergraduate students receive Pell grants.The Ivy League also benefits from greater wealth from their lavish endowments than England’s universities. More than 60% of the students admitted to Harvard this year will receive need-based scholarships averaging more than $40,000.