21/01/2013 09:53 GMT | Updated 21/01/2013 10:10 GMT

Are Ethnic Minority Students Being Forced Into Medicine And Law Degrees, As Les Ebdon Claims?

Ethnic minority students are being "forced into medicine and law", according to the government's fair access tsar - but how true is his claim?

According to Les Ebdon, head of the Office for Fair Access, such students are facing a "terrible dilemma" and often drop out of university or suffer a break down.

"One of the underlying reasons for the under-representation of ethnic minorities in some highly selective universities is because they apply predominantly for medicine and law, both highly competitive courses, and a significant amount of that is parental pressure," he told the Sunday Times.

"Colleagues tell me these students may not always be personally committed to medicine or law as a career but it is the career their parents want for them."

Alex Dyer, director of private tutor firm Tutor House, says many students considering university don't want to take the degree they are applying for, instead it is their parents who have chosen their degree subject.

"Usually Asian parents want their children to study medicine, pharmacy and dentistry - most certainly not training to be a teacher or a recruitment consultant," Dyer tells the Huffington Post UK.

"I remember a parents evening at a school I used to work at - "Well Mr Dyer, we want our son to be something important in society, a great job, well paid, something where people with respect him, like a Doctor. On no account to we want him to be a teacher, no offense to you of course!"

He adds more Asian families are adopting an increasingly "relaxed" approach to sending their children to university.

"Business and economics are allowed into the fray," Dyer says. "But it's still a no go for things like art, sport, music, drama. At A-Level maths, chemistry, biology and/or physics are the compulsory subjects that Asian parents want their children to study and then continue this at university. I guess it's due to their collectivist cultural approach."

Not everyone agrees with Ebdon's concerns, however. Dimple Vijaykumar, HuffPost UK blogger and English literature student at Southampton, told us: "I was personally never pressured to do medicine or law. Not all 'ethnic' parents thrust their own ambitions onto their children."

Manchester student Naila Missous, another HuffPost UK blogger who studies English, tweeted us saying: "I'm an ethnic minority (however that is classed). Wasn't forced into anything. Have siblings and none of us do medicine or law."

A second year law student at Warwick added:

Student Jazz Chappell also disagreed with Ebdon's sentiments, telling HuffPost UK: "I think this is a huge generalisation.

"It's down to the parents' individual views, not ethnicity. I am mixed race and my mum couldn't be more supportive and let me decide a career choice myself - the same with many others I know. It depends on the parents' own views. I'm sure all ethnicities have their fair share of forceful parents."

Ebdon insisted students - and their parents - needed to be more informed before making degree choices, which could prove difficult following the government's decision to slash career advice service funding.