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False applications: Black students 21 times more likely to be suspected than whites

Racism exists at every level of university, from application right up to graduation. Source: Shutterstock

The punishing effects of racism have great reach. Now, new data shows it goes as far as the unsuspecting university application process.

Data from UK’s Ucas admissions service show black applicants are 21 times more likely to have their university applications investigated on the suspicion of false or missing information compared to their white peers, The Independent reported.

Ucas said it is “extremely concerned” and have launched a probe into it.

There were more investigations required for black applicants, despite making up only a fraction of total white applicants (42,580 black applicants compared to 388,465 white British applicants), according to the information gathered under freedom of information rules.

This means one in every 103 black applicants were investigated, whereas for white applicants, their chances are much lower, with just one in every 2,146 applications triggering an investigation.

David Lammy, the former Labour higher education minister said the figures show how “unconscious bias” plays a role during the admissions process and called for a review of Ucas verification system.

Growing proof of obstacles for black university students. Source: Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

According to its website, the Ucas Verification Team is in charge of preventing and detecting fraud in applications and similarity in personal statements, such as fake qualifications, plagiarised personal statements as well as false, missing, or misleading information. Detection in software and input from universities help the team decide whether an application should be investigated.

Ucas may request supporting documents – even original copies – if an investigation is flagged for accuracy. Applicants have 14 days to comply before a second email is sent. If applicants do not respond to the second email within seven days, their application will be cancelled.

Applicants then have 28 days to appeal from the date of cancellation, following which Ucas has 28 days to reply in writing whether the application has been reinstated or rejected (ie. remain cancelled).

NUS black students officer Ilyas Nagdee said he is “lost for words” in seeing how a process whose aim is mainly to channel university applications is “also fuelling prejudice”.

“It will make a lot of people lose trust in Ucas, so they urgently have to take steps to rectify that.”

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