Helen Thorne, Director of External Relations, UCAS, said: ‘UCAS has a responsibility, on behalf of students, universities, and colleges, to screen applications for false, missing, or misleading information, to maintain the integrity of UK higher education and prevent fraud'.
Posted Mon 23 April 2018 - 08:20

‘Our aim is to avoid anyone gaining from an unfair advantage or securing a place by deception. If applicants or their referees appear to have provided false or misleading information, or omit necessary information, their applications will be flagged for investigation by our verification service.

'None of the systems and processes we use for flagging have access to ethnicity data.

‘We typically ask flagged applicants to provide original documentation or additional information. We give everyone an opportunity and time to resolve issues. Through the course of an investigation, the university or college is kept informed about the process. If issues cannot be resolved, or applicants or their referees are found to have provided false or misleading information, UCAS will cancel their applications.

‘In 2017, we cancelled less than 1% (0.06%) of applications from almost 700,000 UK, EU, and international applicants. Applicants whose applications are cancelled can appeal the decision.

‘In response to a Freedom of Information request, UCAS analysed the data on numbers of flagged and cancelled applications by ethnicity. 

‘While we are confident about the integrity of our verification processes – which are regularly reviewed – this analysis showed that they are flagging a comparatively higher number of Black applicants.

‘This a matter of concern to us, and we are now carrying out further analysis to understand what is driving this pattern of results. Our findings will be independently audited and published, together with details of what action we may take, if any.  

‘We are also preparing to start publishing annual statistics about the numbers of applications flagged and cancelled by our verification service, including breakdowns by applicant characteristics. UCAS already publishes extensive and timely analysis and insights into applications, offers, and acceptances. See more information in the 'Notes to Editors' section.

‘Both the analysis and statistics will be published by the end of May 2018.’

For further information, please email communications@ucas.ac.uk, or contact the media desk on 01242 545 469.


Notes to editors

How UCAS’ verification service works

UCAS has a dedicated team responsible for managing false, missing, or misleading information on applications. This team’s work is carried out on behalf of the students and course providers, to uphold the integrity of higher education in the UK by ensuring students gain their higher education places fairly. Read the guidance we give to students about our processes.

All applications are screened in three ways, by:

  • independent fraud detection software
  • independent similarity detection software
  • university and college admissions teams

Neither of the software services we use includes information about ethnicity or nationality. Higher education providers are unaware of an applicant’s ethnicity until after application decisions have been made. 

UCAS' data

Every year, UCAS publishes comprehensive data about applications, offers, and acceptances by a wide range of characteristics, including ethnicity.

This shows that the entry rate to higher education for English 18 year old state school students from the Black ethnic group, has been increasing year-on-year since 2006, and now stands 40.4%. In comparison, the entry rate for the White group is 29.3%. Between 2006 and 2016, the entry rate for Black students increased from 20.9% to 37.5%, a proportional increase of 79%.

View all our publicly available data

About UCAS

UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is a charity, and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education. We manage applications from around 700,000 people each year for full-time undergraduate courses, at over 370 providers across the UK.

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