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New Research Shows BME Students Are Being Unfairly Denied University Places

The researcher behind the study argues that it could be the result of an attempt to reflect the UK's diversity.

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Black and minority ethnic (BME) students might be losing out on places at Russell Group universities because attempts to improve diversity are backfiring, according to new research.

Vikki Boliver, a researcher at Durham University, surveyed more than 151,000 applications in the academic years 2010-2011 and 2012-2013.

She found that while 54.7% of applications by white candidates received an offer, acceptance among minority candidates was much lower, with black African applicants averaging a 21.9% success rate. The difference could not be fully explained by differences between ethnic groups' A-level grades or choice of course, according to Boliver.

"The more ethnic minority applicants to a course, the less favourable the chances of admission for ethnic minority applicants relative to comparable white applicants," Boliver told BuzzFeed News.

Darren Staples / Reuters

One possible reason is that universities are attempting to make their courses match the ethnic diversity of the UK, meaning that BME candidates are losing out when applying to courses that have disproportionately high numbers of minority candidates.

Boliver said further research into this apparent bias will not go ahead as UCAS is no longer allowing third parties to access detailed anonymised applicant data.

In response to a request for comment from BuzzFeed News, a UCAS spokesperson said: "We don't grant access to any of our 700k applicants' identifiable, personal data. However, we are working to make data available through the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN), where applicants have given their consent. We don't restrict access to truly anonymous data."

Rachael Krishna is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Rachael Krishna at

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