Diverse places of learning: Home neighbourhood ethnic diversity and the ethnic composition of universities

Sol Gamsu, Michael Donnelly

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The degree of ethnic diversity in UK universities is extremely varied, reflecting
the broader ethnic segregation across the country. Student protests around
the representation of colonial figures in historic universities, about the ethnic
attainment gap in higher education and about the racism students of colour
experience at university underline the political importance and sensitivity
of this issue. In this policy brief we provide a statistical analysis of the ethnic
diversity of British universities. Using data on students going to university in
2014/15, we reflect for the first time on how the ethnic mix of where students
grow up affects the university they attend. We find that students growing up in
the least diverse neighbourhoods tend to attend the least diverse universities,
but that these universities are still more diverse than where they grow up. This
suggests universities are, superficially at least, places of mixing – but also that
many students will not have grown up in ethnically diverse areas. Students
who grow up in diverse neighbourhoods in large cities are disproportionately
concentrated in the most diverse universities, which are largely ‘newer’ post-
1992 universities in London and the Midlands. Many prestigious universities and
specialised arts institutions do not reflect the diversity of the cities in which
they are located. We also provide statistics on the ethnic diversity of subjects
at different universities, showing how ethnic diversity and segregation within
higher education are subtle and complex.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationBath
PublisherInstitute for Policy Research, University of Bath
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)2515-2556
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • ethnicity
  • higher education
  • race
  • segregation
  • neighbourhood
  • universities
  • racism


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