Update to UCAS report on minimising the risks of unconscious bias in admissions

Posted Fri 17 November 2017 - 07:55
In autumn 2015, the government asked UCAS to work with the higher education sector to explore the feasibility of introducing ‘name-blind applications’.

We published our  Unconscious bias 2016 report (1.52 MB) in August 2016. It included an overview of steps currently taken to minimise the risk of unconscious bias in the admissions process for higher education. It also assessed the potential for implementing a ‘name-blind application’ process at either a central (UCAS) or local (individual provider) level.

Today (Friday 17 November 2017) we publish a progress report on the recommendations  Minimising the risks of unconscious bias in university admissions: 2017 update on progress (1.01 MB).

Six English universities volunteered to run pilot projects to test a ‘name-blind application’ process in the 2017 entry cycle. None of the six projects produced conclusive evidence that masking applicants’ names led to significantly different admissions outcomes. In two of the projects, the universities found that masking applicants’ names appeared instead to have a negative impact on initial admissions outcomes.

More than 110 higher education providers engaged with resources produced to help those working in admissions recognise and tackle the risks of unconscious bias. The Higher Education Liaison Officers Association (HELOA) is now considering how to take this work forward, and we will be supporting them in a range of ways.

UCAS continues to publish equalities data on behalf of the higher education sector to show differences in applications, offers and acceptances by sex, ethnicity and area-based background measures. This is a key part of our work to raise awareness of the differences in entry rates between different types of student groups and trends.

Helen Thorne, External Relations Director, for UCAS said: ‘Universities and colleges are committed to ensuring that admissions processes are fair and transparent for all students, and employ a range of robust strategies and policies to achieve this. Minimising the risks of unconscious bias is an important part of this, and it’s encouraging that over 110 universities have used training and good practice resources in the last year.

‘The name-blind pilot projects have made a valuable contribution to understanding what works and what doesn’t in supporting fair admissions. The lessons learned should help universities and colleges to shape and inform good practice for the future.’

For more information contact Felicity Cowie, Head of Media and Corporate Communications, f.cowie@ucas.ac.uk, 01242 545 469.

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