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Fair admissions

Research by our Department of Sociology is helping widen access to Higher Education.

Statistical analysis of university applications and admissions data by Professor Vikki Boliver showed that leading UK universities were less likely to admit ethnic minority applicants than comparably qualified white applicants.

Further research led by Professor Boliver also showed that learners from disadvantaged backgrounds were being systematically excluded by high and rising academic entry requirements.

Tackling ethnic and socioeconomic inequalities of access to Higher Education

To tackle these issues, Professor Boliver and colleagues recommended that university applications and admissions data should be made available to researchers, policy makers and the wider public to enhance transparency and accountability and reduce ethnic bias.

She also advocated for the greater use of contextualised admissions practices involving lower academic entry requirements for disadvantaged applicants to university in recognition of the impact of socioeconomic inequalities on pre-university attainment.

Influencing change

Professor Boliver’s work has influenced both government policies and university practices.

She called for universities to publish detailed admissions statistics to tackle ethnic biases in admissions decisions. This proposal featured in the 2016 Higher Education White Paper, Success as a Knowledge Economy, and was subsequently included in legislation as part of the 2017 Higher Education and Research Act.

As a result, there has been a substantial equalisation of the rates at which Black British and White British students enrol in higher-tariff universities in the UK.

Subsequent research by Professor Boliver and colleagues on the use of contextualised admissions practices has been used by the Scottish Government and by the English Office for Students to help eliminate socioeconomic inequalities in access to Higher Education generally and higher-tariff universities in particular.

Universities have been encouraged by the regulators to adopt bolder contextualised admissions practices which have resulted in steady reductions to the socioeconomic gap in rates of enrolment at higher-tariff universities.

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