White applicants to university are 14% more likely to receive an offer than their black peers in the UK.
The Black Lives Matter movement has brought a great deal of attention to the systemic and institutional racism in the UK.
In particular, several universities have spoken out condemning racism within their institutions, the application process and their communities.
Though, there is still a real, institutional inequality that exists in universities throughout the UK.
One way this is evident is, for example, the disproportionate percentage of students receiving ‘top degrees’ at university.
The percentage of white students receiving first class honours and upper second class honours, which are generally accepted as being ‘top degrees’, is noticeably higher than black students.
And, as the degree classification increases, the proportion of white students achieving those classifications increases. Yet the opposite can be seen for black students.
In June 2018, The National Union of Students and Universities UK first released details of plans to tackle the BAME attainment gap.
Following the report, Baroness Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS, said: “It is important that universities act and are transparent in their approach so black, Asian and minority ethnic students are given the best chance of success.
“Inaction is not an option. Universities should be places where opportunity and aspiration come together.”
Equally, the disparity between the proportion of black and white students attending the ‘top’ universities, is another indicator of this inequality.
Universities with high tariff points are predominantly Russell Group institutions which hold a reputation of being prestigious and more selective during the application process.
This inequality within the application process is also reflected in the different 2019 offer rate percentages.
White applicants are, on average, 14% more likely than black applicants to be offered a place at university in the UK, 4% more likely than Asian applicants and 2% more likely than Mixed applicants.
The imbalance in the student body and application process is also noticeable in the lack of ethnic diversity in the teaching and research staff.
Just below 2% of teaching and research staff in the 2018/2019 academic year were black.
Yet, 7% of students on undergraduate courses were black.
The low proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic teaching staff at universities across the UK has previously faced scrutiny due to the lack of representation for prospective and current students from the BAME community.
This imbalance is also shown in the proportion of staff working as managers, directors, and senior officials as academic staff in universities.
A comparison of staff salaries also highlights that black staff earn considerably less, on average, than their white colleagues.
This can largely be explained by the previous figures showing the lack of black, Asian and ethnic minority staff filling the top jobs in universities.
The inequalities shown through these statistics not only highlights the current issue of institutional racism in UK universities.
It indicates that the barriers to equality are in place at every level of higher education institutions where students, staff and prospective students are affected.
All aspects of the UK’s education system have come under the spotlight in recent weeks and, calls to make the school curriculum more diverse, have heightened.
Plus, a number of petitions have been made to the Department for Education, and other public UK bodies, to teach children about the history of British Imperialism and Colonialism.
From the perspective of a first year Bristol University student, Temitope Odude, has shared her experience of racism during her time there so far.
Miss Odude, who is a Law with French student, said: “I think that universities need to place harsher punishments on people who are being racist as a deterrent to others.
“I think that the approach is far too lenient and sends the message that that kind of behaviour will actually be tolerated contrary to the ethos of the university.
“In terms of education, I don’t think there is much universities can be expected to do.
“People come to uni for the specific course they’ve elected to do and I don’t think it’s realistic for unis to think people would want to have a course on racism tacked onto that.
“I think that education about racism needs to begin well before university. Nevertheless, while at university, racism should be punished harshly.”
On whether racism has improved during her time at the university so far, she said: “It’s gotten worse?
“In the light of the covid-19 pandemic, many of my Asian friends have told me stories of them being stared at, spat at, yelled at, verbally abused and avoided because of the stigma attached to the virus.
“On our university confessions page, there have also been other similar stories as well as some people finding racist graffiti and posters around the city.”
Asked about what the university could do, in particular, to make the campus more diverse and inclusive, she said: “I think that promoting societies such as ACS (African Caribbean Society) and other BAME groups more will allow people to feel more comfortable in the new environment.
“It will show that they have a community behind them and let racist people know that there is little space for their attitudes.”
Miss Odude shared about the racist incidents that have happened to her personally during her time in Bristol for her studies.
“The most unforgettable racist experience I had was in the nearby Tesco. I entered the store as normal and did everything I normally did.
“I noticed that the security guard was not the usual middle-aged black man but was instead a younger white man. I thought nothing of it. Until I noticed that he would conveniently be at the end of every turn I made.
“Whenever I would go into a new aisle, he would be at the end of it acting like he was looking at something else. I thought I was overthinking things and was being overly sensitive.
“It was only when I got back to my flat that I realised that I had been followed in the store and was being racially profiled.”
Amid the focus of the Black Lives Matter campaign on Bristol, as protestors took down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into the docks, the University has since released a statement.
The university has acknowledged that financially, it had indirectly benefited from the philanthropic support from families who made money from transatlantic slave trade businesses.
The statement read: “We are aware that racism is still very much part of everyday life for many people in our community.
“We must all make the effort to learn, understand and take action to bring about real change and dismantle racism in our community.
“We published our Race Equality Statement earlier this year – it sets out the key areas of focus for our evolving race equality strategy, establishing our direction of travel for the coming years.
“We are establishing a Steering Group to help us develop strategies to address individual, cultural and structural racism across our institution and to educate us all in how we can be an anti-racist organisation.
“It is the responsibility of us all to eradicate racism. We will continue to challenge this through our research, our education, and our civic engagements.
“We are fully committed to working with our staff and students, our Students’ Union, and the wider community to continue to address issues of racism and inequality.
“We are painfully aware that racism did not occur overnight, and it will not end that way. We are taking a long-term view on effecting real change across our university.
“We firmly believe that if we all actively do our part and develop a speak-up culture that places responsibility on all of us – not only people of colour – to call out racism when it occurs, we will succeed.”
A number of other universities have since released statements, some of which have come under criticism for their lack of active steps to address the problems within their institution.
But this institutional inequality, highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement, is something that is important for not some but all universities across the UK to actively address.