According to a recent study, students from ethnic minorities may be less likely to get university offers than their British counterparts. The study, carried out by the London School of Economics, analysed degree applications  by  ethnic identity,  and found that applications from   12 minority groups, were “significantly” less likely to result in an offer. But just what does this mean? students To break it down further, the study shows  that for every 100 applications, Pakistani candidates received seven fewer offers than white British applicants, whilst black Caribbean applicants received three fewer offers, and Bangladeshi and black African students receiving five fewer. Here, the results  show a real and significant disparity between the success of university applications from white British hopefuls, and those from other ethnic groups. What remains less clear, however, is the underlying causes behind this concerning gap. The study ensured that other variables did not interfere, as the results were found even after other factors such as academic achievement, family background and educational background were taken into account. This important consideration points to other, more complex, reasoning behind the ethnic disproportion.

Troublingly the study deems it ‘plausible’ that the gap could be down to direct racial discrimination.

For example, factors such as racially indicative names may prove the difference between a white British student and their counterpart from an ethnic minority, as students of mixed descent still had higher success rates than those solely from an ethnic minority.

The Russel Group “works very hard to encourage students from a wide range of backgrounds to apply”

Dr Wendy Piatt
director-general of Russell Group

This certainly is not the whole picture however, as the study points out it is also possible that a number of other factors have played a part, such as the ‘perceived quality of personal statements’.  This is evidenced as applicants from lower social class backgrounds also had lower offer rates. Other findings in the study go even further in illustrating just how little we understand  this gap- as mixed white/Asian and Chinese candidates proved to be an exception to the rule that students from minority groups received fewer offers.

 Universities UK have said that institutions are ‘actively addressing’ the issue.

Whether this important issue is the result of direct racial discrimination or the more convoluted secondary effects of applying from a minority group is yet unclear, but what is clear, is that universities still have a way to go before achieving truly fair admissions processes.   Read more here or here.

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