Incorrect claim by the Government

15 April 2016

On 31 January 2016, the Prime Minister David Cameron wrote about racial equality in the Sunday Times. In the article, Mr Cameron said that "if you’re a young black man, you’re more likely to be in a prison cell than studying at a top university". Fraser Nelson, Editor of The Spectator, subsequently asked the Government for the figures and methodology that were used to support this claim. On 15 April, in an article published in The Daily Telegraph and in a subsequent blog on The Spectator website, Mr Nelson revealed that the figures actually showed black men aged between 18 and 20 are more than twice as likely to be studying at a Russell Group university than be in prison.

In response, Director General of the Russell Group Dr Wendy Piatt said:

"The Government’s figures on the number of young black men at top universities compared to those in prison were surprising. The latest official data available shows that between 2010 and 2015, the number of black students starting courses at our universities rose by 62%. Ensuring our doors are wide open to talented and able students from all backgrounds really matters to Russell Group universities. And our analysis suggests that real progress has been made over the last five years with big increases in the number of black and minority ethnic students attending our universities.

"But we are far from complacent. Russell Group universities spend hundreds of millions of pounds on outreach activities in schools and colleges and on bursaries and scholarships that support disadvantaged students through their degree course.

"While our universities invest a huge amount of time, effort and resources into improving the situation, they cannot solve this problem alone. There are still far too many children from disadvantaged backgrounds underachieving at school and receiving poor advice and guidance. It will take time, commitment, and sustained action from a range of agencies to raise pupils' aspirations, increase attainment and improve the advice and guidance offered."

Notes to Editors

  1. According to the UCAS End of Cycle 2015 report (which details university applicant and acceptance rates for entry in September 2015). The number of Black students accepted by Russell Group universities has increased by 62%, from 1,690 in 2010 to 2,740 in 2015.
  2. In 2016-17, the 20 Russell Group universities in England alone will be investing £243 million in scholarships, fee waivers, bursaries and outreach activities aimed at the most disadvantaged - with additional investments being made across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  3. Extensive data on the applications process and demographics of the student bodies at universities are already published by UCAS,HESA and by individual universities. For example, Oxford and Cambridge publish detailed breakdowns of application statistics on their websites here and here, respectively.
  4. In 2015, only 16% (1130) of the 7115 18 year old UK domiciled Black students applying to HE with three or more A-levels had grades AAB or better. This compares to 32% of white applicants.
  5. In 2011/12 only 3.5% of A-level students from Black backgrounds achieved three A*-A grades. This compares to 26.9% of Chinese students, 11.1% of Mixed Race students, 10.2% of White students, and 9.5% of Asian students.
  6. The Russell Group Opening Doors report and accompanying films examine the root causes of under-representation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and gives examples of what Russell Group universities are doing to help tackle the problem.

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