British Universities Are Disproportionately Investigating Black Applicants For Fraud

British Universities Are Disproportionately Investigating Black Applicants For Fraud

April 24, 2018

Just a few weeks after a survey conducted by The Student Room revealed the shocking levels of racism levelled at PoC students in British universities, another damning investigation—this time undertaken by The Independent—has revealed that the universities themselves are guilty of racial profiling and prejudicial treatment of PoC students, particularly black students and applicants.

According to the report, black university applicants are 21% more likely to have their applications investigated for missing or false information than their white counterparts. The data comes from the UCAS admissions service (via freedom of information rules), who have said they are "extremely concerned" about the figures and have launched an investigation.

Last September, 419 of 42,580 black British applicants to undergrad courses were flagged for investigation. Meanwhile, 181 of 388,465 white British applicants were flagged for investigation. That's one in every 102 black British applicants as opposed to just one in ever 2,146 white British applicants.

The report comes as just one in a long line of stories that paint a deeply troubling picture of the experiences of BME students in Britain's universities. These include (but are by no means limited to) two 18-year-old Nottingham Trent students being arrested after a student posted video footage of racist chants in her halls of residence; members of the University of Exeter's law society being suspended after racist WhatsApp messages were leaked; and an investigation by Sheffield Hallam into an incident where a rotten banana was reportedly thrown at a black student during an ice hockey match.

Labour have accused the UCAS admissions service of "institutional racism", with former Labour higher education minister David Lammy commenting: "Questions clearly have to be asked about what is behind this disproportionality 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."

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."

Though UCAS deny any prejudicial treatment in their admissions system, they have vowed to release all data showing the race and gender of all applicants who have been flagged, as well as launching an investigation into the report's findings.

Words: James Keith