Minority students: Under-performance “a bigger issue than access”

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23 May 2014

Performance differentials between students of different ethnic backgrounds are nowadays “a bigger issue than access to university” for these groups of students, Prof Les Ebdon, Director of Fair Access to Higher Education, has argued in a University of Manchester video.

Though Universities have achieved ‘remarkable success’ in admissions for ethnic minority students, he said the next challenge is to ensure they achieve as good a degree as other students with the same entry qualifications.

Professor Ebdon talked about the importance of equal expectations for students, whatever their background, saying that “if you have a lower expectation of a student then you get lower achievement.”

Prof Ebdon was recorded responding to an undergraduate student at an event in which he was confronted by a series of pre-recorded questions from University of Manchester staff, students and alumni.

He was was named one of Britain’s 500 Most Influential People by Debrett’s in 2013.

Hosted by the University’s Manchester Institute of Education (MIE), he answered a series of questions recorded by event organiser Dr Steven Jones, who had been speaking to students and staff across campus.

In the video – released today – Prof Ebdon describes higher education “as the best investment you can make”.

“The picture is changing all the time,” said Prof Ebdon, pointing to “remarkable success” in admissions with minority ethnic groups, but noting the increasing under-representation of ‘working class boys’ was “building up quite a significant social problem.”

But he conceded that “the advantages of the system take a lot of explaining to people who just see the headline £9,000 per year”.

Prof Ebdon also urged universities to address the “myth” that young people from non-traditional backgrounds don’t fit in at university, acknowledging differences in the quality of advice, information and guidance received by students from different educational backgrounds.

Professor Ebdon has been Director of Fair Access to Higher Education since 1 September 2012. He was previously Vice Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire.

That followed an illustrious career in analytical chemistry, including more than 250 publications and several awards.

He was awarded a CBE in 2009 for services to local and national higher education and was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of Bedfordshire in 2011.

The event launches a new series by MIE called , "Manchester Asks", in which key educational policymakers and public figures respond to pre-recorded questions from university staff, students and alumni before a live audience.

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