We have seen record numbers of English 18 year old black and minority ethnic (BME) students going into higher education over recent years and entry rates for all ethnic groups increased in 2017, reaching the highest recorded levels. Improving access and outcomes in higher education for ethnic minority students is a priority for government.
Through the Higher Education and Research Act 2017 (HERA), the government has introduced sweeping reforms to tackle equality of opportunity. This includes the Transparency Duty, which will for the first time, require all universities to publish applications, offer, acceptance, dropout and attainment rates of students by ethnicity, gender and socio-economic background.
The HERA places a statutory duty on the new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), to promote equality of opportunity for disadvantaged and under-represented groups in higher education, not just access. This includes non-continuation and attainment levels of students from those backgrounds. Through our first guidance on access and participation plans, we have asked the OfS to encourage providers to build on the work already underway aimed at increasing the success of ethnic minority groups in higher education.
In addition, the HERA has created a Director for Fair Access and Participation so that widening access and participation for disadvantaged students is at the core of OfS functions.
The OfS’s regulatory framework will include the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework, which will assess providers on how well they are delivering positive outcomes for all students, including those from under-represented groups.