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Higher Education: Ethnic Groups

Question for Department for Education

UIN 40807, tabled on 18 August 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, with reference to the report, Higher Education awarding gaps and ethnicity in London: Going beyond BAME published by AccessHE on 16 July 2021, if he will make an assessment of the potential merits of implementing the recommendations made in that report.

Answered on

6 September 2021

It is vital that all young people entering higher education (HE) in the UK do so with the same opportunities as their peers to fully benefit from their chosen course of study.

Under the Higher Education and Research Act 2017, the Office for Students (OfS) has a statutory duty to promote equality of opportunity for disadvantaged and traditionally under-represented groups. This includes non-continuation and attainment levels of students from those backgrounds.

The OfS has set itself and the HE sector targets to address longstanding inequalities, including to eliminate the gap in degree outcomes between white and black students. In 2019-20, there was a difference of 18.3% between the proportion of white and black students getting a 1st or 2:1. The OfS has plans to eliminate the unexplained gap in degree outcomes (1sts or 2:1s) between white students and black students by 2024-25, and to eliminate the absolute gap by 2030-31.

On 11 March 2021 the OfS published the access and participation data dashboard, which is used to identify gaps in access, continuation, attainment, and progression at English providers delivering undergraduate provision by different student characteristics. This is available here:

In our latest strategic guidance to the OfS we asked them to urge providers to do more to ensure that all students, particularly those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, are recruited on to courses that will deliver good outcomes. We have also asked that the OfS encourage universities to work with schools to meaningfully raise the attainment in schools, because we know this is one of the strongest predictors of future participation in HE.