First universities to begin ‘name-blind’ projects, UCAS report announces today.
Posted Wed 7 September 2016 - 14:32

A group of universities will introduce name-blind processes for some courses next year, to test whether masking students’ names can aid fair admissions.

The universities of Exeter, Huddersfield, Liverpool, and Winchester will run name-blind projects to evaluate the benefits for students and the potential for wider implementation. UCAS will coordinate these activities with help from Supporting Professionalism in Admissions (SPA).

The findings and recommendations of UCAS’ evidence-gathering exercise, published today, showed that universities have a high level of awareness of the risks of potential bias in admissions decision-making and are employing a range of strategies to combat these.

The report recommends evaluating the effectiveness of a name-blind approach, alongside better training about unconscious bias and the sharing of good practice.

Earlier analysis and data published by UCAS found no evidence of systemic bias in the admissions system.

Helen Thorne, UCAS’ Director of External Relations, said, 'Managing university admissions is a complex business. Universities use different technology systems and many use a number of different admissions processes for individual subjects. 

'Admissions professionals are concerned that if UCAS were to mask names centrally, this could affect their ability to maintain relationships with students and undermine efforts to widen participation.

'The projects being undertaken in 2017 will enable universities to evaluate the effectiveness of a name-blind approach and how it could complement existing approaches used to ensure admissions are fair for all.'

Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, said, 'We are committed to ensuring that everyone with the ability, regardless of their background, has the opportunity to study at our world-class universities. That is why we called on UCAS to conduct this review, and I’m delighted to see universities working together to take it forward and stamp out inequality.'

Notes to editors

1. UCAS was asked by the government to consult with the higher education sector about the feasibility of introducing name-blind applications.

2. UCAS’ report of this evidence-gathering exercise on unconscious bias in admissions to higher education is published today. It is based on a survey of 120 universities and colleges, focus groups, and discussions with technology providers and with stakeholders in the UK and overseas.

3. UCAS’ earlier offer-rates analysis in the End of Cycle Report 2015 and individual reports this summer for 130 universities found no evidence of systemic bias in the admissions system. There were instances across higher, medium, and lower tariff higher education providers where offer rates to certain groups were outside what might be expected if these were made solely on the basis of predicted grades and the course applied to.

4. UCAS is supporting further work in this area by making individual-level data available, securely, to authorised researchers via the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN).

About UCAS

UCAS is a charity and is the UK's shared admissions service for higher education. We manage applications from around 700,000 applicants each year for full-time undergraduate courses at over 380 universities and colleges across the UK

Media contacts

UCAS Press Office: 01242 545 469

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