UCAS applications to become name-blind

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In recent weeks, UCAS has announced plans for name-blind applications in the aim of eradicate racial discrimination from within the education system.

SCAN understands that name-blind applications should be coming into effect in 2017 and it is hoped that they will help combat the issue of racial bias in the university application process. University admissions panels can in many cases ascertain the ethnic background of an applicant from an applicant’s name, and in theory make a decision based at least partially on this information.

The new system will allow applicants to be identified by either a code or a number when they first apply to university. Only if a candidate is required to attend an interview will the university then be given their name.

There has been concern for some time that BME students are at a greater disadvantage than white students when applying for a place at university. Research from the London School of Economics (LSE) in 2014, suggested that the offer rates are significantly higher for white students.

BME students were still less likely to be offered a place across the full range of higher and further education institutions even when factors such as academic attainment, social class, family background, sex, and educational background are taken into account. In response to these findings Jeremy Crook, director of the Black Training and Enterprise Group, called for UCAS to consider a nameless application process.

UCAS has also looked into this issue and while they note that the offer rate from higher tariff universities to white applicants is higher than to applicants from BME groups, this difference does not take into account factors such as predicted grades, the subject applied for or the university applied to. With these factors in mind an ‘expected’ offer rate can be calculated that reflects these variations.

The ‘expected’ offer rate for BME groups is still lower but this may be due to the universities and courses that they apply for having lower offer rates to begin with. UCAS argue that actual offer rates to BME students are close to what would be expected when based on predicted grades and the course applied for.

UCAS Chief Executive Mary Curnock Cook has stated that UCAS is not only discussing the idea of name blind applications with universities but in fact, “a wider range of changes which could impact applications from BME students”. This shows a genuine commitment from UCAS to ensuring an effective application process that is equal to all.

Curnock also says that “UCAS is deeply committed to increasing participation from disadvantaged groups”, which suggests that name-blind application form part of a long term effort to making the university application process more accessible for BME students.

UCAS appear to be maintaining a long term commitment to deal with the issues at hand. However only time will tell whether the ethnic disproportionality decreases.

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