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White applicants are offered places to study for a PhD at a higher rate than black, Asian and ethnic minority candidates, data has found. The programme sent freedom of information requests to 133 UK universities, requesting data for the academic years between 2015 and 2020. Of the 62 universities which responded, all but one had a higher acceptance rate for white applicants.


The data shows the imbalance was starkest for black applicants. Fifty one universities provided a detailed breakdown by ethnicity, and this showed black applicants had the lowest proportion of successful offer rates at 33 of these universities. This data includes offers to home and international applicants.


A PhD is the highest academic qualification a student can achieve. The degree involves significant independent research into a chosen field. Getting a PhD is a crucial step to progress to an academic career. While at undergraduate level there are more ethnic minority students than ever before, this is not the case for PhD study.

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“Even though I did see a lot of black and [ethnic] minority students at university, I was never actually taught by a person of colour. So that was kind of the first notable omission that I saw,” he told BBC Newsnight. Dr Arday has conducted research into black students’ experiences across universities, and says the barriers are often subtle. They depend on things such as supervisors and lecturers selecting students at undergraduate level to progress onto PhD studies. “The type of people I saw get cherry-picked were white middle-class people. And that never extended, in my opinion, to black or minority ethnic people.” A first-class or upper-second degree is normally required to go on to postgraduate research. A report by Universities UK shows that white undergraduate students are awarded higher grades