Black, Asian and ethnic minority applicants are less likely to be offered places to study for a PhD than white applicants, according to data found by BBC Newsnight.
BBC Newsnight sent freedom of information requests to 133 UK universities, of which 62 responded, showing that black applicants are least likely to be offered PhD places.
Only one of the universities had a higher acceptance rate for black and ethnic minority students.
In a report published on Leading Routes, in 2017/2018 there were a total of 15,560 full time UK-domiciled PhD students in their first year of study and just 3% of those students were black.
The same report adds that a freedom of information request to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) revealed that over the last three academic years, of the total 19,868 PhD funded studentships awarded by UKRI research councils, 245 (1.2%) were awarded to black or black mixed students.
Dr Jason Arday is one of a minority of black academics in the UK and an associate professor at Durham University.
He told BBC Newsnight: “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.”
I think when you have a number of multiple intersecting minority identities, you’re carrying the burden of what each of those identities brings. And they combine and conflate and make it even more difficult for you
– Dr Suriyah Bi
Dr Suriyah Bi feels her background as a working-class Muslim Kashmiri woman presented as an obstacle to entering academia.
Dr Bi attended a comprehensive school in one of the UK’s most deprived areas. She received a place at Oxford University and now has an academic career as lecturer.
She told BBC Newsnight: “The word ‘PhD’ was not in my vocabulary until I was an undergraduate at Oxford.
“I think when you have a number of multiple intersecting minority identities, you’re carrying the burden of what each of those identities brings. And they combine and conflate and make it even more difficult for you.”
The report from Leading Routes, coupled with a report by Universities UK, highlights that white undergraduate students are awarded higher grades compared to their black, Asian and minority ethnic peers.
A first-class or upper-second degree is normally needed to go on to postgraduate study.
Former Education Secretary Damien Hinds spoke to BBC Newsnight about the degree attainment: “I think your research on PhDs is important and ground-breaking.
“What we were absolutely aware of was this gap in attainment at firsts and 2:1s. The Office for Students is focused on this, trying to identify what the blockage is.”