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Black applicants to the University of Bristol are half as likely to accept an offer as their white counterparts…and then half as likely to graduate with a first if they do, an Epigram report has revealed.

The report, which used applicant data from UCAS, as well as attainment data from a Freedom of Information request, also found that:

  • Only half of black students applying to Bristol directly out of their final school year receive offers, compared to 72 per cent of white applicants.
  • Just six black students graduated from Bristol with a first class degree last year, compared to 880 white leavers.
  • Over the past six years an average of 37 per cent of black graduates have left without a 2:1 or better, compared with just 11 per cent of white students.

The UCAS data, which takes into account all main scheme applications in the 2015-16 application cycle, found the ‘acceptance rate’ for black students applying to Bristol to be just 6.9 per cent – less than half that of the 14.3 per cent rate held by white students.

How does Bristol’s black acceptance rate compare with other Russell Group institutions?

UCAS defines an acceptance as an applicant who receives an offer from an institution, accepts that offer, and then goes on to meet its terms, usually in the form of a-level grades. Consequently, acceptance rate may be affected by the number of offers given out, applicants choice of whether or not to accept the offer and the applicants’ academic performance.

Bristol’s black acceptance rate of 6.9 per cent is the fifth lowest of any Russell Group university, higher only than the universities of Glasgow, Leeds and Southampton, as well as King’s College London, which has the lowest rate at 6.4 per cent.

Of Bristol’s 43930 UCAS applicants, 1165 were black and 80 went on to accept offers. UCAS round these figures to the nearest five to protect applicant identity.

The University of Cambridge had the highest acceptance rate for black students at 12.5 per cent, followed by the University of Warwick (12.2) and the University of Nottingham (11.4).

Those black students who do accept Bristol offers have, throughout the period 2010- 2016, consistently graduated with lower degree classifications than their white peers across all undergraduate degrees (excluding clinical degrees).

Out of those graduating from Bristol University in 2016 just 15.8 per cent of black students left with firsts, in comparison to the 30.3 per cent of white students.

‘From the point of application to the point of graduation, black students are feeling underrepresented and undervalued at the University of Bristol.’

The 2014/15 academic year showed signs that the attainment gap may be narrowing at Bristol, with 79 per cent of black students achieving firsts or 2:1s. However, this figure fell again last year.

There were some positives from the report, with the 6.9 per cent acceptance rate representing a 1.6 per cent increase on the previous year and a raise of 3.1 per cent since 2010. This year is also the first time that Bristol has received over 1000 black applications through UCAS since 2009.

However, since 2010/11 there has been no significant change in the proportion of the university population that are black, compared with a 1.5 per cent increase in the white population.

Hannah Dualeh, Equality Liberation and Access (ELA) Officer at Bristol SU told Epigram, ‘These findings show that, from the point of application to the point of graduation, black students are feeling underrepresented and undervalued at the University of Bristol.’

‘There have been recent incidents of overt racism at University of Bristol; but this data points to a wider issue at the University. Whether it manifests through insults, or a lower uptake of black students’ UCAS applications, racism at Bristol University is an institutional problem’.

However, Vincent Onuegbu, a third year French and Portuguese student, felt that a lack of diversity at leading schools has a knock on effect on diversity at the university.

‘The obvious thing, regarding offers, is the minority of black pupils that I can envisage at the places from which Bristol take most of their students. At my school, I was one of five black people in my sixth form and I think that I may be the only one who applied to UoB. I can’t blame UoB for this trend in the demographic.’

Another third year student challenged students at the university to tackle the issue from within.

‘More white students at Bristol need to start engaging with this issue and challenging the university to do something about it,’ she said. ‘Support the ‘Why is my curriculum white?’ campaign, look at the environment you live in critically and talk to your friends about diversity.

Bristol University have been working with Bristol SU in an attempt to better understand and reduce the ethnicity attainment gap. It is anticipated that the outcomes of their study will be produced in June 2017.

The Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Chair of the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Steering Group told Epigram that the university are ‘committed to ensuring that our student experience and curricula provides an opportunity for all to engage and succeed.’

‘We monitor the BME attainment gap on an annual basis to ensure we make progress regarding the continuation rates of BME students, we also work closely with the Students’ Union, in particular the ELA Officer, to better understand and reduce the gap’.


What are your thoughts on the problems facing black applicants and students at Bristol?

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