Ucas denies ‘loss of confidence’ in system after revelation black people more likely to have applications investigated

Posted on: 2018-06-21 08:00:00

Ucas has refuted claims confidence has been lost in the system after figures revealed black students are 22 times more likely to have their university applications investigated for potential fraud or errors than their white peers.

Clare Marchant, CEO of Ucas, believes the admission services’ transparency over the data – which was first exposed by The Independent – could have in fact strengthened their reputation.

Her comments come amid concerns black students could be deterred from going to university amid a loss of trust in the process after Ucas was unable to explain the stark disparity.

More than half (52 per cent) of the UK applications flagged by Ucas’ verification service – which looks for false or missing information – between 2013 and 2017 were from black students, despite black applicants making up 9 per cent of all university applicants, Ucas data revealed last month.

When asked by The Independent whether she was concerned about a loss of confidence, Ms Marchant, said: “No because I think one of the things we did was be really transparent about it. I was really keen to be as transparent as possible.”

She added: “As long as Ucas is absolutely open to changing the way it operates – and being transparent about the data – I think that’s actually a strength rather than detracting from our reputation.”

Samuel Babarinde, a black prospective student who had his application flagged by Ucas, decided to withdraw his application after he found the investigation process “intimidating”.

“I felt I had been singled out. It felt like I was already guilty before being found guilty,” Mr Babarinde previously told The Independent.

Ms Marchant admitted communication with some prospective students could be improved – including the tone of staff in the admissions service.

“Just because you’re flagged doesn’t mean we are going to cancel. So the tone in which you speak to people, or email people, needs to be fit for the 21st century. It’s got to be courteous,” she said.

Ilyas Nagdee, black students’ officer at the National Union of Students (NUS), told The Independent they still had concerns about why black students are more likely to have university applications investigated than their white peers – and they are yet to hear how Ucas plans to address it.

He said: “Ucas’ antidote needs to go beyond naval-gazing at the tone of voice of their staff, it needs to tackle systemic issues of unconscious bias which are hindering talented black students from entering and benefiting from higher education.”

Last month, Ucas said it had made enhancements to its fraud detection service and ensured all staff involved in verification activities have had up-to-date unconscious bias training. 

But Ms Marchant admitted there was more to do – and she added she would reach out to organisations which represent Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups to help improve the service.

“While it’s encouraging that Ucas is willing to speak about these failings, we need them to take immediate actions to address them if they are ever going to restore confidence in the application process amongst black students,” Mr Nagdee added.

He said: “Frankly, I’m afraid that students won’t share the view that this episode has strengthened Ucas’ reputation or brand perception in any way, especially given by their own admission it was wholly avoidable.”

Source: Independent

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