Universities Accused of Racially Profiling UCAS Applications

Data from UCAS has revealed that black students applying to university are more likely to have their applications investigated than white students.

The information shows that last September, 419 black students had their applications highlighted as requiring further investigation, compared to 181 from white students. This means it is 21 times more likely for a black student’s application to be investigated for false or missing information, despite the fact that there are far more applications from white students

The information was released under freedom of information rules. 

The external relations director at UCAS, Helen Thorne, said: “I am not aware of any way really that unconscious bias could creep into this.” However, she did add that UCAS were “extremely concerned” about the data that had been revealed.

This is after David Lammy MP was quoted as saying: “Questions clearly have to be asked about what is behind this disproportionality within the UCAS verification system, and why applications made by black students are more likely to be flagged and investigated.”

Last year, David Lammy revealed that 13 Oxford colleges had failed to make any offers to black students applying in the past six years. There have also been a number of recent racist incidents against black students at university, including universities such as Nottingham, Exeter and Sheffield.

Shadow education secretary, Angela Rayner, said: “This shocking practice highlights just how pervasive institutional racism is across the higher education sector.”

She also added that: “UCAS must urgently investigate this and make clear what steps will be taken to end the racial profiling of students.”

NUS black students officer, Ilyas Nagdee, said: “I am almost 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.”

UCAS have announced that they will begin publishing annual reports of the race and gender of students whose applications are flagged. They are also carrying out an investigation into why these figures are so high. 

At the time these figures relate to, there were 42,580 applications from black students, so one in 102 were investigated. Comparatively, although the number of applications from white students were higher, at 388,465, just one in 2,146 were investigated further.

A spokesman from 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.”

Rabeeah Moeen