Minority ethnic students in HE: mixed picture of success
Press release issued: 24 June 2004
Minority ethnic groups are more likely than White people to progress to higher education in England, but on average are less likely to do as well in degree performance and face more problems getting jobs.
A new report, 'Why the Difference?: A closer look at higher education minority ethnic students and graduates', published today [Thursday, June 24], by the Department for Education and Skills, contains the findings of a major research study at the Institute for Employment Studies over the last two years. It shows the various influences on minority ethnic participation and achievement in higher education, and their transitions to the labour market, and presents the most comprehensive and detailed picture yet to emerge.
The report's main author, Helen Connor, commented: 'Minority ethnic students represent a significant proportion of today's output from higher education: around one in six of graduates. But the pattern contains huge variations. They have a considerably higher participation rate (56 per cent, compared with the average of 40 per cent) but this overall figure masks important variations between the different minority ethnic groups in their progress to HE, the universities they go to, and their subsequent achievements.'
- There is a very skewed distribution of minority ethnic students within the HE sector, in particular, there is a strong bias towards certain universities and subjects, and geographical differences.
- Routes into HE differ: fewer minority ethnic students, with the exception of Indian and Chinese, take the traditional 'A' level highway to degree study.
- There are stronger 'push' factors of aspirations and economic expectations from HE among minority ethnic groups, especially most Asian groups; and more positive support and encouragement from parents and families.
- Minority ethnic students face greater problems in finding their preferred choice of jobs or careers. This can be attributed to a number of factors (eg prior attainment, choice of course and university, personal attributes) in addition to ethnicity. Under-representation still occurs in many large organisations, mainly because of their highly selective recruitment processes.
The report highlights a number of policy implications, including:
- the importance of having an understanding of minority ethnic progress, participation and outcomes at a detailed level, so that policies and approaches to help overcome disadvantage can be more focused;
- the need to put more effort into raising earlier attainment and to close the 'A' level gap for some groups, especially Black students;
- the need to monitor the impact of current HE reforms, especially students' finance, on individual ethnic groups;
- that more private sector employers should monitor ethnicity in their graduate recruitment.
Professor Tariq Modood of Bristol University, one of the authors, concluded: 'Ethnic minority entry into higher education is a good-news story, but problems do need to be attended to. Some groups are badly under-represented in the elite institutions, have high drop-out and low performance rates. Moreover, the possession of a degree for ethnic minorities is still not converting into an appropriate share of prized jobs.'
About the study
The research was undertaken by Helen Connor, Claire Tyers, Jim Hillage (IES), and Tariq Modood (University of Bristol), between 2002 and 2004. Research included a comprehensive data analysis of the national figures; a survey of 1,300 undergraduate students in further and higher education; a national survey of 1,000 potential entrants; telephone interviews with 80 parents of current students, 13 repeated in depth; follow-up survey of 103 students who graduated; 20 interviews with graduate recruiting employers.
- Minority ethnic students are clustered in big city universities, in London, Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, the highest concentrations being in some post-92 universities in London (exceeding 50 per cent).
- Around half of universities have an under 10 per cent minority ethnic population of home-domiciled undergraduate students.
- HE participation rates for individual groups range from 39 to over 70 per cent.
- Minority ethnic students are under-represented in physical sciences, humanities and education degree subjects.
- Initial unemployment is higher for all minority ethnic groups than for White graduates.
Why the Difference?: A closer look at higher education minority ethnic students and graduates, H Connor, C Tyers, T Modood, J Hillage. DfES Research Report RR552.