High-achieving British minority students still struggle to clinch top jobs – study

Britain is “a long way” from offering a level playing field to non-white groups, according to a recent study.

The findings, published by the UK’s Social Mobility Commission on Wednesday, revealed that despite outperforming other ethnic groups at every level of education, British citizens of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin are still much less likely to be offered managerial or professional jobs compared to their white peers.

The study found that this trend is driven partly by workplace discrimination, with Muslim women receiving the brunt of it.

However, the report’s lead author Bart Shaw added that other factors such as cultural norms, family expectations, and geography also played a part.

The commission’s chair, Alan Milburn, said the findings showed that there is still much work to be done to break down barriers.

“The British social mobility promise is that hard work will be rewarded. This research suggests that promise is being broken for too many people in our society,” he said, pointing out that it was troubling that people who were making the greatest advances at school were being overlooked for opportunities in the workplace.

“In recent months, the low educational attainment of white British boys has gained significant attention. However, when it comes to the transition from education to employment, this group is less likely to be unemployed and to face social immobility than their female counterparts, black students and young Asian Muslims,” said the report.

The study, conducted by education think tanks LKMco and Education Datalab, looked into students’ performance in school and on to sixth form and university. It then observed how well graduates did in the workforce in comparison to their academic achievements.

What it found was that white working class children are among the worst performers at primary and secondary school, and were also the least likely to pursue higher education.

According to the data, only one in 10 of the poorest in the group would go on to university, compared to three in 10 for black Caribbean children, five in 10 for Bangladeshis, and almost seven in 10 for Chinese students.


The study also found that black students, especially males, tended to fall behind their peers in secondary school, and are the worst performers at maths GCSE, the most likely to be excluded, and the least likely to achieve a good degree.

The report suggested that parents play a huge role in their children’s academic performance – students whose parents were more engaged in their education did better than those whose parents were more hands-off.

The commission made several recommendations, reported the Guardian, such as:

  • The government should take action to discourage schools from setting children by ability, particularly at primary level, because of evidence that it could have a profound negative impact on pupils’ future social mobility.
  • Teachers should urgently act to ensure that white working class parents, and those from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups, engage more in their children’s education amid evidence that they do so far less than some minority ethnic counterparts.
  • Universities should do more to reach out to white working class pupils because of the proportionally low numbers entering higher education, and take action to understand the unusually high dropout rate among black students.
  • There should be targeted support from schools, universities and employers to help Muslim women achieve their career ambitions.

Image via Shutterstock 

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