Does diversity effect university choice for BAME students?
For the last 9 years white teenagers have been the least likely to go to university, in 2016 the entry rate for white teenagers to university was 29%. This isn’t to say however that UK universities are all ethnically diverse. Although black students are almost 10% more likely to attend university then white students, they are actually the least likely to attend “higher-tariff” universities such as Russell Group universities.
These are just some of the statistics presented by Tom Phillips in his Buzzfeed article “8 Charts That Show How Ethnicity Determines Your Outcome At University” which focuses on recent data from UCAS and HEFCE. In the article, Phillips explores the statistics and considers what reasons there could be for the ethnic disparities and what disadvantages are faced by black students in particular.
Phillips considers potential bias within institutions before A levels, after university entry and after graduation. From personal experience as a black student, I feel as if I can understand the narrative that runs behind some of these statistics, along with my own view as to how culture has contributed to the disparities.
Firstly, when I reflect on when I applied for university, my main considerations were the universities ranking, course ranking and then how diverse the university/location is. The third isn’t a consideration that everyone chooses to make, but for me it was just as importance as the university ranking. Being privileged to have experienced diverse schools in London, I couldn’t imagine losing that and neither could a lot of my friends. Racial incidents and segregation sadly are still a reality and you can read about them occurring at universities more often than you should. University is a daunting new chapter in anyone’s life without those added pressures.
So whilst Phillips considers how at the majority of universities in the UK, black applicants are generally less likely than average to be given an offer, I think we also have an issue with how BAME students view university-myself included. The lack of representation at certain universities acts as a deterrent. You might think A) it’s out of your comfort zone to be there or B) I won’t be accepted so what is the point in applying. This is definitely an issue we need to tackle, making BAME students feel more welcomed at these universities inspires the younger generation into thinking these higher-tariff universities are attainable. It’s a sad truth but I know through personal experience that some BAME students wouldn’t even aim for some of the top universities due to these fears. If this institutional bias is already present, then this added crutch of personal deprecation only worsens the chance for BAME students to succeed.
To draw in more BAME students and to lead to a more diverse environment changes need to be made within the institutions themselves. Moving away from male Eurocentric curriculums and lecturers will instil much needed belief in the system to BAME students. Personally, moving forward I won’t let insecurities about such things dictate my future decisions as much as it did when considering universities. I realise now that in order to make a mark we must be the change we wish to see, even if that means going out of your comfort zone.