Ethnic groups' qualifications rise

Salisbury Journal: Many ethnic minority groups have seen improvements in the numbers educated to university standard Many ethnic minority groups have seen improvements in the numbers educated to university standard

Ethnic minorities in England and Wales are increasingly more likely to have a degree than their white British peers, research suggests.

In the last 20 years, many ethnic minority groups have seen bigger improvements in the numbers educated to university standard than those from a white background, according to a study by Manchester University.

The findings also show that many ethnic minorities are less likely to have no qualifications.

Researchers suggested that the improvements are down to more people gaining access to education abroad and rising numbers of people from ethnic minorities being educated in Britain.

The study, by Manchester University's Centre of Dynamics and Ethnicity, looked at the qualification levels of different ethnic groups in England and Wales to see how achievement had changed over time.

It found an overall improvement in achievement, but this was greater for ethnic minorities.

Between 1991 and 2011, the proportion of Indian people holding a degree rose from 15% to 42% - a 27 percentage point increase, while for those from a Pakistani background it went from 7% to 25% - a rise of 18 percentage points.

In comparison, the proportion of white people holding a degree increased from 13% to 26% - up 13 percentage points.

This increase was smaller than for every other ethnic group examined, the study said.

"People from ethnic minority groups were generally more likely than white British people to have degree level qualifications or equivalent," it said.

"In 2011, only people from the white gypsy or Irish traveller, Pakistani, Bangladeshi and white and black Caribbean groups were less likely than white British people to have degree level qualifications or equivalent."

Overall, in 2011, a third of people born outside the UK (35%) held a degree compared with around a quarter of those born in the UK (26%).

The study found that in 2011, nearly one in four white British people (24%) had no qualifications, more than those from black African (11%), Chinese (16%) Indian (15%) and black Caribbean (20%) backgrounds.

Both Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups (26% and 28%) had slightly more people with no qualifications, but these numbers had dropped considerably between 2001 and 2011.

The researchers concluded: "Historically, ethnic minority groups have been disadvantaged in terms of education compared with the white British group. Many post-war immigrants lacked qualifications or had qualifications that were not directly transferable to employers in Britain.

"Over the last twenty years educational attainment has been increasing among ethnic groups as a result of an improvement in access to education overseas and the increasing proportion of ethnic minority people educated in Britain."

The study also found differences in achievement between younger and older people, and these were more marked for ethnic minorities.

The proportion of Asian people aged 25 to 49 with no qualifications was almost double the number of 16 to 24-year-olds from an Asian background (15% compared to 8%).

But for the same two age groups, the proportion of white British people with no qualifications was identical at 11%.

Study author Kitty Lymperopoulou said: "Over the last twenty years, educational attainment has been increasing among ethnic groups as a result of an improvement in access to education overseas and the increasing proportion of ethnic minority people educated in Britain.

"Though this is good news for ethnic minorities, we need to remember that despite achievement gaps between some ethnic groups and white British people narrowing or even disappearing, ethnic minority groups continue to experience inequalities in education and the labour market."

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