Bridge over ocean
7 November 2023 Article

The Supply of Diverse Talent in the United Kingdom: Higher-Education Evidence

  1. Maria Boutchkova
  2. Angelica Gonzalez
By 2019, the UK higher education sector showed overrepresentation of ethnic, gender, and disability minorities. Lower socioeconomic groups were underrepresented. The finance industry demand is exceeded by the number of qualified minority graduates.
The Supply of Diverse Talent in the United Kingdom: Higher-Education Evidence Read Report

Report Overview

By 2019, UK higher education (HE) had seen improved representation of women, ethnic minorities altogether (i.e., Asian, Black, Mixed, and Other, hereafter ABMO), and people with disabilities, surpassing their corresponding UK population proportions among 18- to 19-year-olds. Even when institutions are categorized by selectivity, these trends persist, except for Black and Other students, who remain underrepresented in the most selective universities. Notably, Black student enrolment in top-tier universities increased by 300% from 2010 to 2019. However, students from disadvantaged backgrounds remained underrepresented in HE. Women, although overrepresented overall, continue to be underrepresented in STEM subjects, except biology.

Analysing final degree classifications, we find that performance improved for all groups between 2016 and 2019 and that higher selectivity correlates with better outcomes. Women outperform men, and White students are more likely to attain top degree classifications. Students from affluent backgrounds have better outcomes than their economically deprived peers. Students with and without reported disabilities show similar performance.

Disparities in performance by ethnicity are most pronounced in less selective universities and least so in highly selective ones. Despite differences across university groups by selectiveness, the majority in each student subgroup by ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic, and disability status achieved 1st or 2:1 degrees.

The finance industry's demand for new graduates over the last five years was around 17,000, a number well met by ABMO men and women, as well as White women graduates in business and STEM fields, who achieved 1st and 2:1 degrees.

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