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Key figures

63% increase in UK-domiciled BME full-time students

10.7% of black students leave their course

BME students are less likely to gain a first or 2:1


Numbers of entrants from black and minority ethnic (BME) groups have increased, but BME students are generally more likely to leave their course than white students and less likely to achieve a first or upper second class degree.

The numbers of UK-domiciled BME students starting full-time first degrees increased by 63 per cent in the 10 years to 2014-15, which compares with an increase in white entrants of 21 per cent over the same period.

Across all BME groups there were 91,500 entrants in 2014-15, who made up 28 per cent of all entrants.

Across all ethnic groups, the biggest increase in entrants has been for black students. More than double the number of black students started first degrees in 2014-15 as in 2004-05.

Setting aside first degrees, BME students made up 24 per cent of UK-domiciled entrants to other undergraduate courses in 2014-15.

This proportion has stayed relatively constant over the past decade, as numbers of entrants to these courses have fallen across all ethnicities.

With regard to postgraduate study, BME graduates are more likely than white graduates to go on to taught masters.

In total, 14.2 per cent of BME graduates start a taught masters within five years of completing their first degree, which compares with 12.8 per cent of white graduates.

However, relatively fewer BME graduates start research courses: 1.3 per cent compared with 2.4 per cent of white graduates.

The rates at which UK-domiciled students leave their first degree after one year vary across ethnic groups.

Chinese students have the lowest rates of non-continuation, while the rate for Asian students has converged towards that for white students.

Black students are most likely to leave their degree. Although the non-continuation rate for black students has declined over time, at 10.7 per cent for 2013-14 entrants it remains more than four percentage points higher than the rate for white students.

BME students are less likely to achieve a first or upper second class degree.

Controlling for entry qualifications, black students are between five and 26 percentage points less likely than white students to get a higher classification degree, and Asian students are between five and 17 percentage points less likely.

The differences exist at all levels of entry qualifications, so are even apparent among students who enter higher education with very high prior attainment.

Page last updated 19 August 2016