Les Ebdon: ethnic minorities are forced into medicine and law degrees (UK)

The government’s access tsar, Les Ebdon, has claimed students from Asian backgrounds are under pressure to apply for certain courses.

Students from ethnic minorities experience cultural pressure to apply for the most selective university courses, according to Les Ebdon, head of the government’s Office for Fair Access (OFFA).

Ebdon told the Sunday Times that a “significant amount of parental pressure” causes students from these backgrounds to “apply predominantly for medicine and law”, over the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. The director of the government’s higher education access watchdog, created in 2004, argued that this phenomenon contributed to the under-representation of ethnic minorities in highly selective universities, as medicine and law are some of the most highly competitive university degrees.

He alleges the competition for these courses often prevents ethnic minority students from achieving places at universities they could otherwise, if they applied for subjects which were less in demand.

UCAS statistics from 2011 show that out of 19,822 applications submitted to the subject group of medicine and dentistry, 27 per cent came from students of an Asian ethnic background. Medicine and dentistry is renowned for being one of the most competitive subject groups when it comes to university entry, so much so that since the year 2000 students have been limited to four UCAS course applications rather than the five permitted in other subjects. 17 per cent of law applications came from Asian applicants. By comparison, out of a total of 16,526 applications received for history and philosophy courses in 2011, a mere 3 per cent came from students of Asian origin.


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