Black students and asking the wrong questions

So, I didn’t win a data visualisation competition. Oh well, fair enough – the data set we were given was quite simple – this is how many black students there are applying for universities, and this is how many of them got into Oxford, Cambridge, Durham and UCL.

This was, I felt, the wrong question. I didn’t just want to track how black people weren’t getting into our top universities. I wanted to see if the (quite obvious) bias really started there. So that’s what I did, using UCAS’s really quite cool statistical tool and the quite frankly amazing Neighbourhood Statistics:

Now there aren’t as many black students as there are white in the UK, but to make for easier comparison I’ve started them off on an equal footing – conveniently ignoring all the social factors which usually mean they don’t. I started with kids who took their GCSEs in 2006, and worked upwards to the latest lot who are just now off to University. Mathematics aren’t my strong suite, however, so please feel free to check I’ve got it right.

So as far as I can tell, as outrageous as it is that black students don’t get into our top universities with quite the ease they should, what’s even more outrageous is that’s despite being slightly ahead of the game the whole way through. Black students got more A*-C GCSE grades than white. At A-level their grades weren’t quite as good as white students but they passed more subjects. A huge percentage of black students actually applied to go to university compared to white students, but less of them got in – not just to the top universities, but to all universities.

And to crown it all, the black students brave enough to apply to the very top of the University food chain here in the UK, Oxford and Cambridge, were less than twice as likely to get offered a place than if they happened to be white. Well, that’s just plain ridiculous, isn’t it?

I’d quite like to get data on the ethnic makeup of the top schools that tend to get accepted and combine the two.

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Corinne Pritchard

Corinne Pritchard

Information Designer at Simply Understand
I believe design and designers can and should make the world a better place. I love designing things that help people understand complex ideas.
Corinne Pritchard

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