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Student inequalities

Inequality can affect student populations across a range of demographics. While most institutions collect monitoring data on the protected characteristics of their students there are often gaps in this information for certain groups. A lack of data limits an institution’s understanding of equality challenges faced by certain students and the ability to take action. Another concern is that there is a lack of robust national data to enable benchmarking to make comparisons.

Gender attainment gap

For Science, Technology, Engineering, Medicine and Mathematics (STEMM) subjects, male students comprise the majority of students studying engineering and technology (83.9%), computer science (82.9%) and architecture, building and planning (65.0%). Low participation by women in STEMM subjects impacts on their career options and earning potential; perpetuating the under-representation of women in related industries and professions.

A smaller proportion of male graduates receive a first or upper second class degree than female graduates. The gaps were as follows: Wales -7.0%, Scotland -5.5%, England -5.1% and Northern Ireland -4.7%. However, despite women making-up the majority of students and gaining a high class of degree, after graduation they are less likely to secure professional full-time work than male leavers (49.9% compared with 47.5%). Male students also often engage less with support services offered by HEIs. 

Black, minority and ethnic (BME) attainment gap

The overall BME degree attainment gap at 15.2 percentage points remains significant. However, the gap is larger for certain ethnic groups, including UK domiciled first degree undergraduate graduates from other that Black background (28.2 percentage points) and with Black African ethnicity (27.0 percentage points).

Many graduate-level jobs and post-graduate courses (and related bursaries) require an upper second degree or above as a minimum entry requirement. This means that minority ethnic graduates are less likely to access graduate opportunities in the labour market or to undertake postgraduate study. This may be one reason why the proportion of research postgraduates who were black was nearly half that of first degree undergraduates last year. 

Employment of disabled graduates

Six months after leaving HE, unemployment rates were much higher among leavers with certain impairments than non-disabled leavers.

This suggests disabled students can be disadvantaged in finding employment following completion of their studies, which impacts on their future life prospects. 

Assessing specific EDI issues for students

Does the governing body closely examine recruitment data and trends at faculty or subject level?

  • What is the gender balance across subject areas? What is the institution doing to encourage more women or men to study subjects where they are under-represented?
  • Does the institution collect student data for all protected characteristics? What are the disclosure rates for each characteristic? What actions should, or could the institution take to understand the equality barriers for these students?

Do graduate attainment rates (e.g. as measured by degree classification) vary significantly by gender or ethnic group?

  • How does the attainment of our BME students, including by different ethnic groups, compare to that of white students? If there are gaps, what action is the institution taking?
  • How does the attainment of male students compare to that of female students?

Is there significant variation in graduate employment rates for graduates with declared disabilities, gender or ethnic groups?

  • What is the employment rate for disabled graduates, by impairment type, compared to non-disabled graduates? If there are large differences, what action is being taken?
  • What are their respective employment rates for male and female students?

Find out more about EDI challenges in higher education

EDI challenges