Attainment gap between black students and their white peers at university is ‘too high’, higher education watchdog warns
- New data found black students less likely to get top degrees than white peers
- Office for Students found 68.2 per cent of black students gained a first or 2:1
- In same time period, 2019-20, 86.6 per cent of white students got top degrees
The gap between the number of black students achieving the highest grades at university and their white peers is still too high, England’s higher education regulator has warned.
The Office for Students (OfS) said that black students were less likely to be awarded a first or upper second-class degree than white students at all but one of the 97 universities and colleges analysed.
Their data shows that the attainment gap is more than 20 percentage points in some institutions.
However, overall, the attainment gap between black and white students – the difference in those securing a top degree – has closed from 24.7 percentage points in 2015-16 to 18.3 percentage points in 2019-20.
The gap between the number of black students achieving the highest grades at university and their white peers is still too high, England’s higher education regulator has warned (stock image)
Figures from the OfS show that 68.2 per cent of black students gained a first or 2:1 degree in 2019-20, compared to 86.6 per cent of white students.
The OfS has warned that persistent gaps in outcomes highlight the need for universities to support students effectively to succeed in higher education.
Chris Millward, OfS director for fair access and participation, said the attainment gap between black and white students ‘remains far too high’.
He said: ‘At 96 of the 97 higher education providers for which the dashboards report ethnicity attainment gaps, black students’ attainment is lower than we see for white students.
‘Many providers have gaps of over 20 percentage points, with some even higher.’
Analysts looked at the attainment gaps between white and black full-time or apprenticeship undergraduates in the 2019-20 academic year.
The Office for Students (OfS) said that black students were less likely to be awarded a first or upper second-class degree than white students at all but one of the 97 universities and colleges analysed (stock image)
Universities with large attainment gaps include University College Birmingham and Canterbury Christ Church University, where the gap was 38 percentage points at both.
The University of Bedfordshire, Staffordshire University and the University of the West of England in Bristol all had gaps of more than 30 points.
But the data published by the OfS shows there has been progress in closing a number of gaps across the sector – including for access to higher education for students from the most underrepresented neighbourhoods.
The gap in participation at more selective universities has narrowed slightly.
There was a gap of 19.2 percentage points between students from the most and least represented neighbourhoods in 2019-20, down from 19.5 percentage points in 2018-19, the figures show.
Figures from the OfS show that 68.2 per cent of black students gained a first or 2:1 degree in 2019-20, compared to 86.6 per cent of white students (stock image)
Mr Millward said: ‘Data published for our key performance measures shows that there has been a slight decrease in gaps in participation between the most and least advantaged students at higher tariff universities.
‘While this is welcome, this group of universities have some distance to travel in order to ensure equality of opportunity for all prospective students, whatever their background.
‘If they successfully deliver the plans they have agreed with the OfS then, by 2025, 6,500 additional students from the least represented neighbourhoods will enter these universities every year.’
In a commentary published alongside the data, Mr Millward added: ‘Given the effects of the pandemic, we need universities and colleges to address all the disparities they identify in relation to access to, success in and progression beyond higher education, whichever students are involved.
‘It’s not an inevitable consequence of the pandemic that progress on access and participation should now stall; indeed, it’s more important than before to accelerate it.’