A PhD is the top qualification a student can achieve in their academic studies. In 2016, analysis from the Higher Education Funding Council revealed that in England, BAME students are more likely than white students to undertake a master’s course but less likely to do a PhD.
BBC Newsnight recently sent a freedom of information request to 133 UK universities in order to obtain data from 2015-2020 on the demographic of admissions for a PhD course. Out of the mere 62 that responded to the request, all but one had a higher acceptance rate for white applicants.
The imbalance in admissions was most prominent for black applications with 33 universities showing black applicants had the lowest proportion of successful offer rates, including home and international applicants.
Funding plays a large role in the ability to have access to a PhD course and, whilst this affects many groups in society, it is a vital element for people from low income black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds. Dr Jason Arday, an associate Professor at Durham University said he had many jobs to help pay for his degree and, when it came down to securing funding for a PhD he was not aware of the resources available stating that some ‘information is inaccessible to black and ethnic minority prospective academics.’
What’s more, an underlying and systematic issue has been echoed by Professor Kalwant Bhopal, deputy director of the centre for research in race and education at the University of Birmingham. She has touched on the problem of universities and admissions of minority groups in general and the stigma attached to the institutions. She argues that BAME students strongly believe that universities are places for white students and are ‘reserved for the privileged few’. These ideas come from a lack of representation in the academic field and therefore a lack of role models for these individuals to identify with as well as a curriculum that is Eurocentric.
Evidently, within university institutions there is a systematic issue of admissions in regard to race and ethnicity when it comes to students wanting to further their academic studies. This issue is very often highlighted at an undergraduate level with people in the public eye, such as rapper Stormzy playing their part to encourage young BAME students to apply for the top universities in the country. However, when it comes to post graduate research, the issue isn’t touched upon so much. There are many underlying problems such as that to do with access to funding that hinder the chances of those from a BAME background to be able to pursue a career they want.
Whilst the fact that analysis is being undertaken to assess the issue in the post graduate field is positive, it is merely not enough and clearly more needs to be actively done to address this issue and ensure that all individuals have the same opportunity to pursue the career they want, whether this be in the academic field or not.