UCAS unsure why black students are being flagged

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UCAS unsure why black students are being flagged

Black teenagers are way more likely to have their university applications flagged for potential fraud or errors than any other ethnic group.

UCAS says it does not know the reason for the discrepancy as its software "does not look at personal information such as name, address or ethnicity".

The admissions service has studied applications that were flagged between 2013 and 2017.

More than half were from students from black backgrounds.

Data from UCAS's verification service shows that black applicants made up around 9% of all university applicants in that period. They also comprised 52% of those whose applications were flagged.

In contrast, white students made up 73% of total applicants and accounted for 19% of flagged applications.

Asian students were 11% of the total and 16% of those flagged.

Image: UCAS is looking at its systems

Additionally, a bigger proportion of black students had their applications cancelled after being flagged – again more than any other ethnic group.

The verification service, which uses fraud detection software and systems that detect similarities and duplicates between applications, is designed to stop would-be students from gaining an unfair advantage.

Once an application has been flagged, it is investigated further.

Total numbers are small, however. There were around 2.9 million applicants during the study period. Those whose forms were flagged numbered 5,160.

UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said there was "more work for us to do" in ensuring that flagging was "as robust as it can be".

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"We've already made enhancements to our fraud detection service, introduced an additional review of applications prior to cancellation, and ensured all staff involved in verification activities have had up-to-date unconscious bias training," she added.

"We will be inviting organisations that represent Black, Asian, and minority ethnic groups to work with us to help us take a thorough look at key areas of our business, to improve the experience for all applicants."

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