Black students seeking a place at university are 21 times more likely to have their applications investigated for suspected false or missing information than their white counterparts, The Independent reports
‘This shocking practice highlights just how pervasive institutional racism is across the higher education sector,’ says Labour’s shadow education secretary
‘We will now be publishing data on fraud and verification activities with a breakdown by applicant characteristics on an annual basis,’ says UCAS Alamy
The data, from the UCAS admissions service, has prompted accusations from Labour of “institutional racism” in the higher education system and demands for urgent action to stamp out “racial profiling”.
Easy for Labour to criticise and accuse the government of ‘institutional racism’ but the situation has been in existence for a long time and it doesn’t matter which party is in No. 10 the policy remains the same.
UCAS said it is “extremely concerned” by the figures, released under freedom of information rules, and has launched an investigation.
The data shows that 419 black British applicants to undergraduate courses last September were highlighted as a cause for concern, compared to 181 white British applicants, despite there being far fewer black applicants.
Figures show there were 42,580 black applicants, meaning that one in every 102 applications was investigated.
During the same period, there were 388,465 white British applicants, meaning just one in every 2,146 applications triggered further interrogation.
UCAS has insisted ethnicity is not taken into account during the screening of applications – even though prospective students declare their ethnicity in the forms they submit.
Labour MP David Lammy revealed last year that 13 Oxford university colleges failed to make a single offer to black A-level applicants over a six-year period.
There have also been a number of recent reports of racist incidents at universities. Last month, two 18-year-old males were arrested after a Nottingham Trent University student posted video footage of racist chants in her student halls. A black student captured two males chanting “We hate the blacks” outside her bedroom door.
Members of a student law society at the University of Exeter were suspended after private WhatsApp conversations containing racist comments were shared on social media.
In January, Computer Science students at the University of Sheffield were forced to apologise after sending racist messages in a group chat.
And earlier this month, Sheffield Hallam University launched an investigation after a rotten banana was reportedly thrown at a black graduate student during an ice hockey match.
Yesterday, Monday the 23rd April. A Black student was referred to as a ‘monkey’ by Sheffield Hallam security staff because he forgot his student card.
This is the world we live in right here in Great Britain the British are always so quick to condemn America whenever there is an issue of racism going on there but the level of racism going on in the UK is at unbelievable high level. Racism is so much institutionalised in the UK which makes it almost impossible to challenge.
The present windrush situation is just a tip of the iceberg with what is actually going on in this country, you can only realise the gravity of the situation if you are black and most especially if you are a British African with an African name. the situation is much deeper
We are told a computer software is used to process the application, but how come the software picks on black students 21 times more than white students? This is a classic example of “institutional Racism” even the software has been programmed with Racial prejudice which is very sad for a country that condemns other for institutional racism.
On the latest figures, Mr Lammy, the former Labour higher education minister, said: “Questions clearly have to be asked about what is behind this dis-proportionality within the UCAS verification system, and why applications made by black students are more likely to be flagged and investigated.
“The evidence suggests that unconscious bias may well be a factor.” That’s exactly what the issue is, its in their sub-conscious, they are naturally biased once you’re black and my God the situation is twice as bad when you’re BLACK WITH AN AFRICAN NAME.
Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary, said: “This shocking practice highlights just how pervasive institutional racism is across the higher education sector. Ucas has been completely unable to justify this discriminatory practice.
Blaming UCAS is just criminal and stupid really, UCAS is part of the society and institutional racism in entrenched in the society and we can not separate UCAs from the society they are in.
“UCAS must urgently investigate this and make clear what steps will be taken to end the racial profiling of students.”
Fraud and similarity detection software, as well as input from universities, are used when deciding whether an application needs investigating. The process looks out for a variety of things – including fake qualifications, plagiarised personal statements and inaccurate information.
Since the findings have come to light UCAS has said it will publish data, showing the gender and race of applicants flagged, to the public annually – with the first figures expected next month.
One prospective black student told The Independent that he decided to pull out of the application process after he found UCAS’s investigation to be “intimidating”.
Samuel Babarinde, who had his application flagged by Ucas during this academic year, said: “I have been very emotionally distressed by this whole process. I felt I had been singled out.
Wait until the figures comes out someday from the Student Finance as well. I personally have a not so nice experience from them sometimes ago.
“It felt like I was already guilty before being found guilty. It was intimidating and frustrating.”
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.
“It will make a lot of people lose trust in Ucas, so they urgently have to take steps to rectify that.
Helen Thorne, external relations director at Ucas, said: “I am not aware of any way really that unconscious bias could creep into this. Our fraud and verification team have equality and diversity training as well.”
However, Ucas will be carrying out research to understand what is driving the higher figures – and the organisation expects to publish these findings in a report alongside the data.
Ms Thorne added: “If it shows that there is an issue – we don’t know today whether there is an issue – then we will also set out what we will do about it.”
She added: “We are extremely concerned about the data we pulled out in response to the freedom of information request. It is a matter of genuine concern for us and we want to get to the bottom of that. This is an area that we need to be more transparent.
“We take transparency very seriously here at Ucas. We have put in huge efforts in recent years – in terms of analysing and publishing admission data on applications, offers and acceptances by ethnicity – to really shine a light on what is happening in the admissions process.
“This is one of those areas that we really want to take further. We will now be publishing data on fraud and verification activities with a breakdown by applicant characteristics on an annual basis.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We want to make sure that students have access to our world class universities, no matter what their background or race. And while we have seen record entry rates at universities across all ethnic groups, we recognise there is more to do.
“That is why we have already produced guidance asking the Office for Students to push universities, particularly those that are highly selective, to close the gap in access faster.
“The prime minister has also launched a race disparity audit and a programme of work to tackle disparities across all levels of society – including employment, education and criminal justice.”
READ: The original story on the Independent
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