Race inequality persists at every level of the higher education system, according to equality trust
A report by UK race equality charity the Runnymede Trust has found that BME students still face significant disadvantages in the world of higher education.
One of the contributors to the report Andrew Pilkington, professor of Sociology at Northampton University, describes how, for the last decade or so, ‘the primary concern of widening participation strategies was social class’.
This means that the needs of BME students have often been overlooked by policymakers and certain issues neglected, in particular the fact that BME students continue to be under-represented in more prestigious institutions.
The report finds that:
- 1.1 per cent of 15-29 year olds in England and Wales are of Black Caribbean heritage compared to just 0.5 per cent of students at Russell Group universities. Similarly, 2.8 per cent and 1.2 per cent of 15−29 year olds are of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin respectively, compared to only 1.8 per cent and 0.6 per cent of students at Russell Group universities.
- Twenty five per cent of all BME students study at 30 universities, compared to an institutional average in the UK of 16 per cent. The universities with better records on BME students are those that have strong traditions of equal access and admit more students who are the first in their family to go to university. These institutions also attract higher numbers of students from the local area, meaning that students can live at home whilst they study.
- 92.4 per cent of university professors are white. There are only 60 Black professors in the UK, across the whole system, and only 17 of these are women.
The report is extremely critical of Oxbridge, which it says ‘remains the equivalent of ‘a finishing school’ for the private school system, polishing, refining and accentuating the elitism and sense of superiority acquired in earlier schooling.’ This puts both BME and White working class students at a disadvantage.
However, the situation is worse for BME students for two reasons: firstly, ‘BME students are more likely to come from a lower socio-economic background with 75 per cent of Britain’s minority communities living in 88 of Britain’s poorest wards. Secondly, this class discrimination runs in tandem with institutionalised racism: in 2013, 25.4 per cent of White students who applied to Oxford were successful, compared to 6.7 per cent of Bangladeshi students, 6.5 per cent of Pakistani students, 14.3 per cent of Black Caribbeans and 13 per cent of Black Africans.
One Black student interviewed described the dilemma she faced when choosing a university; she felt that the places with lots of Black students ‘aren’t seen as so good’, yet was nervous about applying to a different type of university (implicitly Oxbridge) for fear of standing out.
In a foreword to the study, Labour MP David Lammy points out that:
“Given lower admissions rates, degree attainment and employability, BME people will increasingly ask whether or not they are getting equal value for the £9,000 in tuition fees now charged for many courses.”
Nobody should have to choose between get the best education available to them and feeling socially accepted at an institution. The worry is that if things don’t change, an increasing number of young BME people will choose neither.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.