Do black, Asian and minority ethnic students get value for money from our top universities?
When selecting the university they believe will provide them with the best student experience and a degree that will maximise their employability, most students are guided by a prospectus and university league tables.
The most prestigious institutions admit students primarily on their prior attainment, usually Ucas tariff points. However, universities have known for years that many other factors also affect degree attainment: gender, ethnicity, subject, institution, socio-economic class, parental education and age on entry. As the impact of these factors on degree or employability outcomes for specific student groups will never be found in any prospectus or league table, students cannot make an informed choice.
At our top universities, all students must pay the same tuition fees and hold the highest entry qualifications. Over the past 10 years, however, significantly fewer BME students leave with a good degree. Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that students from some BME backgrounds have only a 1 in 20 chance of gaining a first-class degree, compared with a 1 in 4 chance for white students. These outcomes place BME students at a significant disadvantage when seeking graduate-level employment.
Our most prestigious universities require BME students to be as equally qualified on entry as their white counterparts, and to pay the same fees as they do; yet these institutions consistently fail to provide BME students with the same degree and employability outcomes as their white counterparts. Thus, until the attainment gap is closed, there is a strong argument for a fee reduction for BME students. The lost income and damage to reputation would encourage institutions to provide BME students with the outcomes implied from their prospectus and the league tables.
Principal lecturer, School of Health, Sport and Bioscience, University of East London