Black graduates less likely to be satisfied with career than white peers – study

Figures come as universities are under pressure to improve the outcomes of students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

University graduates
University graduates

Black graduates are less likely to say they are satisfied with their careers after leaving university than their white peers, a report suggests.

Data shows that, of young people leaving university in 2010/11 and 2012/13, UK black graduates are 2.6 percentage points less likely to express career satisfaction compared with white graduates.

Figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that the difference is even larger – approximately 9 percentage points – for graduates who started university at an older age.

The analysis, which looked at data of 111,950 UK-domiciled graduates, comes as universities are under pressure to improve the outcomes of students from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

The research – which surveyed graduates approximately three-and-a-half years after they finished their studies – controlled for a range of factors correlated with both ethnicity and career satisfaction – including socioeconomic status, degree attainment and post-graduation activities.

Among graduates who were 25 or under when they started university, black Caribbean graduates were 7.9 percentage points less likely to report being satisfied with their career than white graduates before controls were applied – and 2.6 percentage points less likely after controlling for other factors.

Black African graduates (26 or over when beginning their degree) were 14.3 percentage points less likely than white graduates to express career satisfaction before controls were applied – but this fell to 9 percentage points after other factors were accounted for.

The surveys – which were carried out in winter 2014/15 and 2016/17 – also found that younger Indian graduates and older Chinese graduates were slightly more likely than their white counterparts to be satisfied with their careers after controlling for other factors.

It comes after separate figures in June found black graduates are significantly less likely to be in full-time jobs after leaving university than their white peers.

Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), also highlighted a recent survey that found black students have a less satisfactory student experience than their white peers as they are less likely to choose the same course and university again.

She said: “It is concerning to see these patterns are mirrored in graduates’ satisfaction with their careers.

“While university resources will be stretched over the next few years and careers services will have a challenging time supporting students leaving university in a pandemic, universities should be reflecting on whether these results mean they should be doing more to support black students and graduates in starting their careers.”

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), called on universities to take real action, rather than “warm words”, to tackle racism and to become “truly inclusive and equitable”.

She said: “This report’s troubling findings are yet another illustration of how structural racism entrenches inequality throughout black people’s lives.

“With black graduates up to 9% less likely to be satisfied with their careers than their white peers, further research is urgently needed to identify and address the systemic issues which underpin this damaging divide.

“Universities have been quick to claim their anti-racist credentials in recent months, but they themselves are part of the problem.”

Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students (OfS), said: “University can transform the lives and careers of graduates, but we know that this is not happening for all students.

“Although black students have relatively high rates of entry to university, they are 22 percentage points less likely to gain a first or 2:1 degree than white students, and five percentage points less likely to be in highly skilled employment after graduation.

“Today’s data from HESA highlights how these patterns ultimately influence the experience of black graduates in work. There are actions arising from this for employers to consider, but also for universities.”

A Universities UK (UUK) spokesman said: “Universities want all of their students to get the most from their studies, to enjoy student life and to succeed and progress, regardless of background or ethnicity.

“There is still much work to do to eliminate racial inequalities in higher education and a need for continued progress working with Black, Asian and minority ethnic students to learn from their lived experiences and to remove any barriers they may face while studying and entering employment.

“Many of our members are already signed up to the race equality charter, and UUK is continuing its work across the sector to positively change the culture.”

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