Ranks of ethnic students swollen

August 30, 1996

More black and Asian students are going to university than ever before, but they apply to a smaller number of universities and a narrower range of courses than their white peers, according to new research. They also find adjusting to the university way of life harder.

The report, Higher Education: the Ethnic Minority Experience, is compiled by Heist, the higher education marketing organisation. As well as ethnicity statistics published by the Universities Central Admissions System, it draws on questionnaire responses from students at 30 universities and colleges, and follow-up interviews. The organisation believes it is the first national qualitative research on race in higher education.

Ethnic minorities make up 11 per cent of the student body and 5 per cent of the population. However, the picture is not uniform. Students of Afro-Caribbean and Pakistani origin are less likely to go to university.

Researchers found that differences between ethnic groups were often greater than those between ethnic minority and white students. They also found resistance among all students to policies that emphasise racial differences. Ethnic minority students complained that lecturers and students placed more stress on race and colour than they did. Only (37 per cent) of ethnic minority students said that their needs differed from those of white colleagues.

Heist's report echoes previous research which found that ethnic minority students often favour competitive courses such as medicine, law and business. They also prefer to apply to universities in cities where there is a rich cultural mix. Many choose to study close to home.

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