One of four newly published reports by the University of St Andrews, the Student equality, diversity and inclusion report 2019, outlines performance indicators related to disability, ethnicity, and gender of the student body. The report outlines categories of student population, student attainment or the percentage of students who achieve an Upper degree (First or 2.1), and student retention.
In the 2018-19 academic year, 17.6% of St Andrews students disclosed a disability, higher than the Scottish (13.4%) and UK average (14%).
In terms of student achievement, determined by the degree class earned in the 2017-18 academic year, 90.9% of disabled students at St Andrews earned an upper degree, compared to 90.4% of non-disabled students. In Scotland, 76.5% of disabled students earned an upper degree versus 80.5% of non-disabled students, and in the UK, 74.7% of disabled students earned an upper degree compared to 76.6% of non-disabled students.
When looking at the performance of St Andrews students by disability over the 2018-2019 academic year, 84.4% of disabled students earned an upper degree versus 88.9% of non-disabled students, with a gap of 4.5%.
However, for disabled students, the proportion who have achieved First-class degrees has declined from 2014 to 2019, standing at 23.8% earning Firsts in 2014-15 to 20.6% in 2018-19.
Meanwhile, the percentage of non-disabled students achieving Firsts has increased over the years, from 27.7% earning Firsts in 2014-15 to 31.8% in 2018-19.
In March, the University appointed a Research Fellow and Project Manager in Equalities to implement equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) initiatives across the University, along with an EDI Project Officer. Additionally, the University appointed two EDI Area Leads for its two different faculties, Arts & Divinity and Science.
The Project Manager in Equalities will work with Student Services and the Proctor’s Office to audit the active inclusive curriculum initiatives across the University, with a focus on disability, and highlight areas that all Schools can improve. The report also states that the University “will continue to work to understand and address the disability continuation and attainment gaps.”
The report given by the University uses broad race and ethnicity categories of “Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME)” and White, instead of providing specific data on each minority group, which students have inquired about in the recent weeks due to the worldwide #BlackLivesMatter protests. The University states in its report, “If it becomes possible in the future to report on a broader range of categories without identifying individuals, we will provide analyses of race and ethnic gaps that are more fine-grained and include sub-categories within the broad ethnic groups.”
Because higher education institutions are only required to provide ethnicity data for UK-domiciled students, the data provided only pertains to these students, although over 45% of St Andrews staff and students domiciled outside of the UK before arriving.
The UK-domiciled BAME population at St Andrews is 10.9%, lower than the proportion of BAME students across the UK, which stands at 23.6%, but higher than Scotland’s BAME representation at 8.8%.
When looking at all students, UK and non-UK domiciled, 20.2% of the St Andrews student population is BAME.
The University also reports that there is a higher proportion of BAME students from outside the UK than within. For example, when examining the proportions for all students in the 2018-19 academic year, 10.9% of UK students were BAME and 88.5% were white, while 32.5% of non-UK students were BAME and 62% were white.
For undergraduates, 10.9% of UK students were BAME and 88.6% were white, while 29% of non-UK students were BAME and 64.6% were white, meaning a total of 17.9% of undergraduates were BAME and 79.3% were white.
The postgraduate taught community has the highest BAME population at St Andrews. 10.3% of UK students were BAME and 88.9% were white, while 46% of non-UK students were BAME and 53.2% were white, giving a total of 35.4% of BAME taught postgraduates and 63.8% white.
For postgraduate research students, 11% of UK students were BAME while 86.6% were white, and 35.3% of non-UK students were BAME with 58.8% white, with a total of 24.6% of research postgraduate students being BAME and 71% white.
In the most recent academic year, 30.7% of BAME students at St Andrews received a First versus 33.2% of white students, a gap of 2.5%. In every year this attainment gap has favoured white students, with the exception of 2016-17 where 33.7% of BAME students achieved a First compared to 30.5% of white students, a gap of -3.2%.
For student retention, the St Andrews averages for both BAME and white students are higher than the UK averages, yet for every year except 2017-18, the proportion of white students who have successfully completed their degree or continued at St Andrews has been greater than the proportion for BAME students.
While the University has previously not published data for non-UK domiciled students as it related to the BAME community, from 2019-2020 onwards, St Andrews will publish retention and attainment data, along with currently published population data, for UK and non-UK domiciled BAME students.
In December 2019, the University established a Race Equality Working Group to address gaps related to ethnicity, including those in recruitment, retention, and attainment.
The aforementioned appointed EDI positions will also work to address issues related to diversity at St Andrews.
In 2019, the University collected views of 1,000 staff and students to identify trends, including those in BAME respondents, in order to inform the University’s People Strategy and Action Plan. Some actions being taken include improving their understanding of students’ experience of applying and being accepted to St Andrews, developing a positive feedback culture for staff and students, improving web content to attract students, and ensuring teaching sessions are as inclusive as possible.
The data offered for gender uses binary categories of men and women, and the University noted that “if it becomes possible in the future to report on a broader range of categories without identifying individuals, we will provide analyses of gender that are more fine-grained and include categories that individuals have indicated is their preferred self-identification.”
In the UK, Scotland, and St Andrews, the proportion of female students remains greater than those who are male. The only place where this is not true is among research postgraduates at St Andrews, where in all three regions, men make up a larger proportion of students than women.
In 2018-19, St Andrews’ students were 41.6% male and 58.4% female. In Scotland, 41.5% were male and 58.3% female, and in the UK, 43.3% were male and 56.7% female.
Among undergraduates for the same academic year, at St Andrews 39.7% of students were men and 60.3% were women.
For the postgraduate taught community, 44% of St Andrews students were male and 56% were female.
The postgraduate research community saw 55.3% of St Andrews students being men and 44.7% women.
In terms of student attainment, St Andrews, Scotland, and the UK all saw a larger proportion of women receive Upper degrees than men. However, while Scotland and the UK also saw a greater proportion of women receive First-class degrees than men, at St Andrews for the last four out of five years, a greater proportion of men received Firsts than women.
In the most recent reported year, 2018-19, 85% of men received an Upper degree compared to 90.1% of women, a gap of -5.1%.
At St Andrews, a larger proportion of men received First-class degrees than women from 2014-18, four out of the five reported academic years. In 2018-19, this changed when 29.6% of men received a First compared to 29.8% of women, a gap of -0.2% in line with the Scottish average.
For UK higher education, a larger proportion of women than men are retained, yet the first-year continuation gap at St Andrews runs against this trend, with a higher proportion of women withdrawing than men.
In the UK for the 2016-17 academic year, 91.2% of men continued with HE compared to 93.6% of women, a gap of -2.4%. However, for St Andrews this retention gap has consistently favoured men over women for all five academic years, spanning from 2013-18. 2017-18, the most recently reported year, saw the highest retention gap of 2.1%, with 97.1% of men continuing and 95% of women.
The aforementioned appointed EDI positions will work to address issues related to gender at St Andrews, and the audit into all Schools will also identify ways that the University can improve in terms of gender inclusivity.