The government has announced plans to anonymise UCAS applications in an effort to ensure equality in the university admissions process.
Writing in The Guardian, the Prime Minister David Cameron, argued that such a move would remove what he described as “unconscious bias” in admissions. In the new system, candidates are likely to be identified by a unique code during the admissions process, with names only being revealed if they are called for interview.
In his article, Mr Cameron said: “For all the legislation we have passed, discrimination still persists. It’s no longer signs on doors that say: ‘no blacks allowed’; it’s quieter and more subtle discrimination.
“You won’t change these attitudes simply through more laws, but in smarter, more innovative ways.”
Last month, Mr Cameron told the Conservative Party conference that “you can’t have true opportunity without real equality.”
Figures show that under the current model, 55 per cent of white applicants gain university places, compared to just 23 per cent of black applicants.
In a separate move, Mr Cameron also announced that several leading graduate employers had committed to the ‘name-blind’ policy, including KPMG and the Civil Service.
Deloitte are taking the move further, by blanking out the names of a candidate’s school and university, to leave a focus only on a candidate’s skills.
The policy is designed to assist in increasing representation of ethnic minorities within universities.
At St Andrews only 8.9 per cent of students are from non-white backgrounds, compared to 12.83 per cent in the UK population as a whole.
However, the details of the policy remains unclear at this early stage. The University declined a request for comment from The Saint, stating that further detail on how the plans will be implemented was needed.
Jackie Ashkin, the member for racial equality on the Student Representative Council (SRC) expressed her cautious support for the move: “It’s a step in the right direction and it’s a surprising move coming from the current government, but it still only one step.”
She explained that while she welcomed the idea, she does not think that it is the only way to solve issues of racial and social inequality, stating that: “This doesn’t address the root of the issue when it comes to lack of diversity, though – that’s a much deeper issue, attached to income inequality and the opportunities available to students from less privileged backgrounds.
“Taking names off the first stage of UCAS applications isn’t going to change that, unfortunately.”
Omar Ali, SRC equal opportunities officer also commented on the proposals, saying: “Race-blind admissions are definitely a step in the right direction.
“However, in order to see equality more generally across the board, we need to see more change.
“This change can come in the form of more staff and administrative officials of minority backgrounds, a more diverse curriculum giving attention to parts of the world outside of Europe and the United States, and more pronounced financial and academic support for international students.”