The Institute of Policy Studies, an independent think-tank, said it was 'worrying' that relatively few Pakistanis and black Caribbeans get to university, compared to other groups. 'There remains a strong possibility of direct or indirect discrimination, both of which are unlawful.'
The Committee of Vice Chancellors and Principals said: 'We take great care to try to avoid discrimination. This study is an interesting application of statistical method but it does not test for direct discrimination, as the report itself admits.'
The research says that British students with Caribbean or Pakistani origins have a relatively poor chance of getting to one of the 'old' universities. But many are going to the 'new' universities instead, the former polytechnics. Members of other ethnic minority groups - especially Chinese - are more likely to be admitted to an 'old' university than white candidates with similar A-levels.
The research is based on a statistical analysis of more than 500,000 entrants to higher education in 1992, when the 'old' universities and the then polytechnics had separate systems. They compared entrance by members of different ethnic groups, taking account of A-level results, sex, social class and type of school attended.
'The results confirm, for the first time, that variations in ethnic groups' entry to higher education cannot wholly be explained by differences in performance at school,' the researchers say.
Tariq Modood, a senior fellow at the institute and joint author of the report, said: 'A-levels are the single strongest determinants of entry but they do not entirely explain the differences. Nor are the differences neat. It is not a black/white divide. For Indians, Africans and Bangladeshis, there is no really significant difference in rates of admission. But in the case of Pakistanis and black Caribbeans, they have a lower rate of admission into the universities.'
Ethnic Minorities and Higher Education - Why are there differential rates of entry?; Michael Shiner and Tariq Modood; PSI; BEBC Distribution, PO Box 1496, Poole, Dorset, BH12 3YD; pounds 5.95.Reuse content