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PhD places less likely to be given to black applicants

Data obtained recently from BBC Newsnight found that black, Asian, and ethnic minority groups were less likely to be offered places to study for their PhD’s than white applicants.

The survey sent freedom of information requests to more than 130 universities in the UK. It requested data and information during the years 2015 – 2020. Sixty universities responded to the request and only one had a higher acceptance rate for white applicants.

One point that came to light in the survey was that the difference was worse for black applicants.

Information was forthcoming from 51 universities, giving a detailed breakdown by ethnicity. The results showed that the lowest proportion of successful offer rates was from black applicants, with just a 33% rate. This included offers to both international and home applicants.

The highest academic qualification that a student can achieve is the PhD. This involves a significant amount of research in a chosen field. To progress in any academic career, it is important to achieve a PhD qualification.

Although there are more ethnic minority students at undergraduate level than ever before, the same is not true for PhD qualifications.

Black and ethnic minority students at postgraduate level drop drastically according to the area of study.

Data showed one example of 8,088 offers for white candidates and just 386 for black ethnicity applicants.

One of the minority black academics at the Durham University is Dr Jason Arday. He is an associate professor.

Dr Arday said that although he saw plenty of black and ethnic minority students at the university, he was never taught by a person of colour. This was Dr Arday’s first notable omission.

On conducting research into the experiences of black students across universities Dr Arday stated that the barriers are often subtle, with many students depending on supervisors and lecturers to progress onto PhD studies.

He noted that the type of people who were selected were ‘cherry picked’ and mostly white middle-class people. The selection was never extended to black or ethnic minority students.

Normally a first-class or upper-second degree is needed for a student to go on to postgraduate research.

UK Universities published a report which showed that white undergraduate students were awarded far more higher grades that any black, Asian, and ethnic minority students.

Damien Hinds, former Education Secretary commented on this, stating that there is a huge gap in attainment and the Office for Students was trying to ‘identify where the blockage is.’

Part of the problem seems to be funding. Funding is always critical for people from low income families and this is particularly true from those coming from black, Asian, and ethnic minority backgrounds.

Dr Arday admitted that he had worked several jobs so that he could pay for his degree, while most of his peers had secured their funding. He was not aware that a funding resource was available because the information is inaccessible to black and ethnic minority students.

On reflecting about the challenges faced by black people, Dr Arday said that while universities attempt to portray equality, fairness, and diversity, they are in fact among the biggest facilitators of inequality.

Dr Arday said that it is especially important to make use of the university platform to challenge structural integrity.

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