Britain: Black and Chinese students are less likely to get top university degrees than their white contemporaries
The study suggested that ethnic minority undergraduates faced "a considerable cost" as a result because students who get first-class degrees increasingly command higher salaries.
The Department for Education and Skills report also found that students living at home were more likely to get firsts, women performed better than men, and older students tended to get better degrees.
Analysing data for 65,000 students, the researchers predicted the odds of different ethnic groups getting first-class degrees, 2:1s, 2:2s or thirds.
The gap was widest for black Caribbean, black African and Chinese students. The analysis took account of factors such as gender, prior academic performance, subject studied and deprivation levels.
"A number of studies have found that attaining a 'good' degree carries a premium in the labour market, and that this premium has been increasing over time, as the higher education system has expanded," the study said. "As a result, there is a considerable cost attached to this attainment gap identified in relation to minority ethnic students."
It cautioned that the findings did not "automatically" imply "ethnic bias".
The Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said the Government was committed to ensuring people of all backgrounds could thrive in higher education."
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