Black students are 50% more likely to drop out of university than their white and Asian classmates, new research has revealed.
Social Market Foundation researchers found that around one in ten (10.3%) of black students leave their courses before graduation, compared to 6.9% of the student population overall.
The report, commissioned by the UPP Foundation, calls on the government to set a target to reduce the black student drop out rate so it is in step with the current national average.
“Tackling non-continuation at university is vital,” the research reads.
“Each drop out represents a loss of potential, a poor and probably confidence-sapping experience for a student and an investment in tuition costs which is likely to have a low return.”
The report claims that universities currently find it challenging to respond to the “structural, organisational, attitudinal, cultural and financial” issues related to ethnicity.
Difficulties forming relationships with students and academics of other ethnicities and a lack of cultural connection to the curriculum are all potential reasons why black students drop out, researchers said.
This group is also more likely to live at home, with data suggesting that students who commute to university are less likely to engage with social activities or develop “a sense of belonging”.
London was found to have the highest drop out rate of any English region, with almost one in ten students failing to complete their first year at university.
However, this could be down to higher percentages of black students - who are more likely to drop out - at London institutions, researchers said.
While 16% of students at universities in the capital identify as black, black students make up less than 2% of the student population in the North East and less than 3% in the South West.
The report calls on Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to improve university retention rates in the capital with his new skills task force, assessing what more could be done through “housing, transport and leisure amenities” to help students fully engage with university life.
Meanwhile, Dawn Butler, shadow minister for diverse communities, called on the government to provide “bold proposals” following the “disappointing” news.
She told The Independent: “Every drop-out is a huge loss for our country and I have no doubt that the trebling of tuition fees and the Tories’ decision to end maintenance grants will have had a big impact, with students now faced with crippling debts.
“I would hope the government’s audit of racial disparities in public services may hold answers to these problems, however, last week the Prime Minister chose to hide the report in order to avoid any potential embarrassment.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said that although more students from disadvantaged backgrounds are going to and staying at university than ever before, “there is more work to do”.
“The Higher Education and Research Act will go further by requiring all providers - including the most selective - to publish application, drop out and attainment data by gender, ethnicity and socio-economic background,” they said.
“This will hold universities to account and help students to make informed choices about where they go to study.
“The Teaching Excellence Framework is also refocusing the sector’s attention on teaching – putting in place incentives that will raise standards and encourage providers support students throughout their studies and equip the next generation of graduates for success.”