To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the work of (1) the Higher Education Academy, and (2) the Higher Education Statistics Agency, in relation to equal opportunities in higher education for black and Asian UK-domiciled students in (a) undergraduate studies, and (b) post-graduate studies.
Widening access and success for students from disadvantaged backgrounds is a priority. This Government is committed to increasing BME (Black and Minority Ethnicity) participation in higher education (HE) by 20% by 2020. We want to ensure that everyone with the potential has the opportunity to benefit from HE, irrespective of their background or gender.
Our most recent guidance to the Director of Fair Access placed a strong emphasis on increasing the number of BME students in HE by 2020 and to address disparities in outcomes (retention, degree attainment and progression to employment/ further study) for students from BME backgrounds. HE publicly-funded providers are subject to maximum fee caps for undergraduate courses. Those wishing to charge higher fees must have an access agreement agreed with the Director. HE publicly-funded providers without an access agreement can charge up to £6,000 for a full-time course in 2017/18 or up to £6,165 if they have a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) rating of ‘Meets Expectations’. HE publicly-funded providers with an access agreement can charge up to £9,000 for a full-time course in 2017/18 or up to £9,250 if they have a TEF rating of ‘Meets Expectations’.
For 2017/18, access plans agreed by the Director means HE providers will spend more than £833 million on measures to improve access and student success for students from disadvantaged backgrounds including minority ethnic groups - up significantly from £404 million in 2009.
Recent research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies shows that BME groups are more likely to participate in HE than white British people. They also have relatively higher participation rates at the most selective institutions, taking into account prior attainment, student characteristic and other factors. The entry rate for English 18 year olds from state schools increased for all ethnic groups in 2016. The entry rates are the highest ever recorded for each group, with the largest increases for pupils in the Asian ethnic group (1.9 percentage point increase to 43%) and the Mixed ethnic group (1.2 percentage point increase to 33%) while the lowest entry rate was for pupils in the White ethnic group (0.9 percentage point increase to 29%).
As autonomous organisations, HE providers are responsible for their own admissions policies and procedures. DfE Ministers have had no meetings with Vice-Chancellors to discuss admissions offers.
In addition, subject to Parliament, the Higher Education and Research Bill will:
- Establish a new regulator for higher education in England, the Office for Students, which will have a statutory duty to consider the need to promote equality of opportunity for students as it relates to access and participation in higher education.
- Introduce a Transparency Duty which will shine a light on university admissions and performance requiring providers to publish application, offer, acceptance, drop-out and attainment rates of students broken down by ethnicity, gender and socio-economic background.
- Introduce a new Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which will ensure institutions are incentivised to provide excellent teaching outcomes for all of their students including those from BME and disadvantaged backgrounds.
Regarding the appointment of black and Asian UK- domiciled individuals to academic posts, I commend the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education’s Diversifying Leadership Programme, which is tackling under-representation of BME staff in leadership roles in higher education.
I also commend the Equality Challenge Unit’s Race Equality Charter, which is awarded to recognise the advancement of minority ethnic staff and students in higher education through representation, progression and success for all.