Last year, the government announced that a new UCAS policy involving obligatory “name-blind” applications would be implemented as of 2017 in a bid to end subconscious racial bias against ethnic minorities.
UCAS is the main body for university applications in the UK, and currently a number of universities across the country, including Exeter, Huddersfield, Liverpool and Winchester, are set to trial the scheme at the start of their respective 2016 academic years.
Speaking to The Guardian, Mary Curnock, UCAS chief executive, said: “This is a good time to consider such changes as part of the wider redevelopment of our application management service. UCAS is deeply committed to increasing participation from disadvantaged groups.”
According to UCAS, steps have been made in the right direction in recent years. Their data suggests that the proportion of 18 year-olds from ethnic minority backgrounds from state schools has increased by 64 per cent since 2006.
Whilst names will be eliminated and instead replaced with a code or number, other relevant information such as family income and former education will still be necessary in order to complete the application forms. This way, students from households of lower income are still able to apply for certain grants and loans that are not available to students from wealthier backgrounds.
St Andrews is not currently participating in the scheme. When the plans were first announced late last year The Saint asked Jackie Ashkin, the Student Representative Council (SRC) Member for racial equality at the time, whether she thought the proposal would work and whether it should be rolled out in St Andrews.
Ms Ashkin 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.”