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Ethnic minorities 'less likely to receive offers' from UK universities


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Research from the London School of Economics (LSE) has shown that applicants from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to receive university offers than white British applicants.

The research looked at 50,000 UCAS applications of students living in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) and took into account academic record, gender, family social class and the type of school attended. It found that the disparity was most pronounced for applicants of Pakistani ethnicity, who received seven fewer conditional offers on average than their white British peers, with Bangladeshi and black African candidates receiving five fewer offers. Other groups, including Indian and Chinese, are also less likely to receive offers.

The study concludes that it is “plausible” that these differences in offers received could be due to direct racial discrimination from the universities, an argument given further weight by the fact that mixed-race students have a similar success rate to white British applicants."

Released today the study, Black and Minority Ethnic Access to Higher Education: A Reassessment, suggests that universities could be discriminating based on names, which has led Jeremy Crook, director of the Black Training and Enterprise Group, to call for nameless applications through UCAS.

These findings differ greatly from previous studies that only found disparities in the older elite British universities. Widely published studies of admissions data at Oxbridge has shown that British ethnic minorities are less likely than their white British counterparts to be offered a place at either institution.

The study also points out that applicants from lower social classes also have lower offer rates, suggesting that it may not just be “direct discrimination” towards ethnic minorities.

It says: “There may be other differences between applications, including the perceived quality of personal statements and the apparent ‘fit’ between the applicant and the course, which may be relevant... the key finding from our analysis, however, is that ethnic and social class differences in offer rates could not be fully explained by differences in academic attainment or patterns of application.”

Dr Michael Shiner, associate professor at LSE, who carried out the study, told The Guardian: "Our data covers the full range of institutions and offers a full picture. It raises concerns about the fairness of the admissions process… we would encourage universities to look at the findings and to think about how the system disadvantages students from some backgrounds and to eliminate that disadvantage."

However, Dr Wendy Platt, director-general of the Russell Group, has stepped forward to defend the universities by saying that the members "work very hard to encourage students from a wide range of backgrounds to apply.”

She adds: "There are other factors aside from academic achievement, including the number of A-level options offered to students at some schools, that affect the chances of students from black and minority ethnic groups getting on to their preferred course. We also know that some groups of students are more likely to apply for the most oversubscribed courses."

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