Black university applicants more likely to be investigated

Black people in the UK are 21 times more likely to have their university applications investigated, a report by The Independent has shown.

According to UCAS data, 419 prospective black British undergraduates were highlighted as a cause for concern last September, compared to 181 white British applicants, despite there being a greater number of the latter applying.

This means that of the 42,580 black applicants, one in every 102 is investigated. For white British applicants, only one in 2,146 is investigated.

This follows the news of numerous reports on the issue of racism on university campuses, including a survey by the Student Room last month, which found that over half of students in the UK have witnessed racism during their studies.

UCAS has insisted they do not have any ‘unconscious bias’, and added their staff have equality and diversity training. However, the organisation admitted that they are ‘extremely concerned’ about the findings.

The Labour party has demanded urgent action to stop the racial profiling’ of applicants, accusing the Higher Education application system of ‘institutional racism’.

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Raynor said that UCAS must urgently investigate this discrepancy and added that the admissions service “has been completely unable to justify this discriminatory practice.”

One black student who had their application investigated by UCAS told The Independent they were “emotionally distressed by this whole process,” while another said they found the investigation to be ‘intimidating’.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said: “We want to make sure that students have access to our world-class universities, no matter what their background or race. And while we have seen record entry rates at universities across all ethnic groups, we recognise there is more to do.”

The spokesperson added: “The Prime Minister has also launched a race disparity audit and a programme of work to tackle disparities across all levels of society.”

The figures were revealed after The Independent made freedom of information requests to UCAS and the Department for Education.

Ilyas Nagdee, black students officer for the National Union of Students, said: “I am lost for words in being able to understand how something like that has been allowed to take place.

“And how a process – which many people thought of as just being the vehicle to university applications – is also fuelling prejudice.”


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Ed Whitbread

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June 2022
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