David Cameron has announced that Ucas will make university applications “name-blind” from 2017, to tackle the risk of unconscious bias against black applicants.
The prime minister, making the announcement in an article for The Guardian, said that the move was part of a key set of goals for “a modern, compassionate Conservative party that wants to extend social mobility”.
Jo Johnson, the universities and science minister, said in his speech to the Universities UK conference last month that the government wants to see a 20 per cent increase “in the number of black and minority ethnic students going to university by 2020”.
Mr Cameron writes in his article that the government has “managed to get some of the biggest graduate employers to pledge to anonymise their job applications – in other words, make them name-blind.
“That means those assessing applications will not be able to see the person’s name, so the ethnic or religious background it might imply cannot influence their prospects.”
He adds: “The civil service, BBC, NHS, local government, HSBC, Deloitte, KPMG, Virgin Money, learndirect – all these and more will now recruit people solely on merit.”
And the prime minister continues: “Some research has shown that top universities make offers to 55 per cent of white applicants, but only to 23 per cent of black ones.
“The reasons are complex, but unconscious bias is clearly a risk. So we have agreed with Ucas that it will make its applications name-blind, too, from 2017.”
Mary Curnock Cook, the Ucas chief executive, said: “We’ll be consulting with universities and colleges on name-blind applications, as well as a wider range of changes which could impact applications from BME students. This is a good time to consider such changes as part of the wider redevelopment of our application management service.”
She added: “One of the benefits of our unique national admissions service means that it is possible both to identify and address issues of under-representation. Ucas is deeply committed to increasing participation from disadvantaged groups.
“Our analysis shows that entry rates to higher education for young students from black and ethnic minority groups have increased since 2006. The entry rate for English 18-year-old state school students recorded in the black ethnic group has increased from 20.9 per cent in 2006 to 34.3 per cent in 2014, a proportional increase of 64 per cent.”