More students from ethnic minority backgrounds studying for degrees

The figures come amid calls to diversify university campuses.

10 February 2022

More students from ethnic minority backgrounds are studying for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, data reveals.

In total, more than a quarter (28%) of UK students were from ethnic minority backgrounds in 2020/21, one percentage point higher than the previous year.

The proportion of students from ethnic minority backgrounds on taught masters programmes had also gone up, with 27% of masters students coming from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, compared with 24% the previous year.

In postgraduate research programmes, for example students studying for a phD, the proportion of ethnic minority students is just over one in five (23%), a rise of four percentage points on the previous year, according to Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data.

The figures come amid calls to diversify university campuses.

In 2019/20, just 6% of students overall came from a Black African or Black British African background, and just 4% of postgraduate research students were from a Black African background, compared with 3% the previous year.

Fewer than 1% of postgraduate research students came from a Black British or Black Caribbean background in 2020/21.

And just 2% of doctorate students came from a British Pakistani background in 2020/21, as in 2019/20.

Earlier in February, data revealed that the proportion of black professors at UK universities has stalled at just 1%.

Figures published by the HESA revealed that just 160 out of 22,855 professors in 2020/21 were black.

Last year, University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady described the pace of change as “glacial”.

In February, a spokesman for Universities UK said: “More needs to be done to address the inequality which exists within higher education, which mirrors inequalities evident in wider UK society and which will require an unequivocal commitment to change.

“We are currently evaluating sector progress against our recommendations from our report on closing the attainment gap in 2019, one of which was that universities must better understand the barriers to postgrad study that students of colour face and put in place measures to support progression into academia.”

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