According to Race for Opportunity, almost one in six (16.0%) of UK university students are from a black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) background. This is up from 8.3% in 1995/96.
Based on detailed analysis of both the Office for National Statistics' Labour Force Survey and the Higher Education Statistics Agency's HESA Student Record, the report, Race into Higher Education, sets out how this increase is in line with the growth in the BAME population from 7.7% of 18 to 24 year olds in 1995/96 up to 14% in 2007/08.
But the report also reveals BAME graduates are failing to find employment as easily as their white counterparts despite being highly represented at UK universities. Just over half (56.3%) of BAME students who graduated in 2007/08 found work within a year compared with two thirds (66%) of white students.
Oxford and Cambridge are failing to adequately represent BAME students. Only Chinese and mixed ethnicity students were better represented at Oxbridge than average, whereas those from all other ethnic groups are underrepresented.
Similarly, ethnic minorities are underrepresented at the majority of Russell Group universities. BAME representation at these elite institutions is unbalanced and heavily regionalised: the four London-based universities, including the London School of Economics and King's College, have a high proportion of BAME students but, outside of London, BAME representation is by comparison poor. Only Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham and Warwick universities are attracting a representative proportion of the UK ethnic minority population.
Across different ethnic groups the picture is mixed. British Bangladeshi and British Pakistani students continue to be the most underrepresented within UK universities. Those from black African and black Caribbean backgrounds typically go to university in large numbers. But while males and females of most ethnic minority groups go to university in very similar proportions, this is not the case for black British Caribbeans where there are more than twice as many females in higher education. The number of black British Caribbean males attending university has increased only fractionally since 1995.
Sandra Kerr, national campaign director at Race for Opportunity, said: "The headline in this report is encouraging: ethnic minorities are better represented in higher education than their share of the general population. But as precious as higher education of all types is, only if more school leavers from ethnic minority backgrounds study at Oxford, Cambridge and other high-achieving universities are we likely to see British ethnic minorities progress into senior management and key leadership positions."