My name is Professor Kawakubo Power. I am professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham and the director for the Centre for Research in Race and Education. This is my Garden talk today. I am delighted to welcome to The Garden Professor Cale want Gopal. Calvin is professor of education and social justice at the University of Birmingham in the UK. She's also director of the Centre for Research in Race and Education. Calvin's research focuses on the achievements and experiences of minority ethnic groups and education, particularly in higher education and academia.
She explores how processes of racism, exclusion and marginalisation operates in predominantly white spaces. Callan is the author of the book White Privilege. The Myth of a Post Racial Society and her new book, Elites and the Making of Privilege will be published next year. Cal wants work has been used by governments to inform policy making in the space, and last year she was given an MBE for services to race, equality and education. For those of you joining us from outside the UK and MPs, an honour bestowed by the Queen for outstanding achievement or service, a really special honour so all of that goes to say we really could not have anyone more qualified than Cal wants to talk to us today about the critical topic of race representation in the university setting Cal wants.
It's wonderful to have you here with us today. Welcome to The Garden. Thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. So, Cowan, you're not just professor of education, but professor of education and social justice. What brought you to the nexus of those two particular disciplines? What inspired you towards that field in particular? As a child, I've always been interested in inequalities and how inequalities work, particularly in relation to race. So during during those years as a child, I myself experienced racism, and I was particularly interested to understand how that works within the educational settings.
So I'm very passionate about social justice issues, and that's why I work in this field. So with that, I'd like to hand over to Professor Calvin Bhopal to explore. Why are universities are getting whiter? So what I'm going to be talking about today is really understanding. Why are universities are getting whiter and I want to start really with a personal anecdote in terms of some of the things that I've experienced in higher education as an academic. So whilst I feel that academic is a liberal accepting space, in reality, it isn't really like that for people of colour.
So consequently, I have experienced racism throughout my career. Actually, in some cases it's been overt and in other instances it's been more covert. So this is something that I'm hugely passionate about, but also based on those personal experiences, I want to understand how that works, and I think that that's something that we all as an educational community, should really think about. So I want to First of all, talk about policy making in higher education. So policy making is really important in higher education because it sets the agenda, enables us to understand really what equality and social justice is.
It's important that we have these policies because they enable us to think about how we teach our students and think about the research community and the higher education higher education community as a whole. So in terms of policy making in the UK, we've had the widening participation agenda which was introduced by Tony Blair and his government, which was the new Labour government. And that was a really important piece of policy making because it meant that students from marginalised communities, working class and black and minority ethnic communities could actually go on to study higher education.
Because higher education has always been a white space reserved for white, middle class students, and that is historically being a fact. And I know it's changing recently, Um, but it is something that continues, and something that I want to challenge in my work. We've also got the Race Relations Amendment Act, which is a really important piece of legislation. So, um, sadly, this was a result of the tragedy of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered simply for one reason because he was black in the wrong place at the wrong time.
And during that time there was a huge investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence and the Race Relations Amendment Act was an important piece of policy making because it introduced the concept or the terms of institutional racism. And that's really, really important, because before then, racism really wasn't talked about as an institutional thing. It was it was spoken about as an individual thing, but we know that institutional racism happens and it is prevalent even today. So that was really important piece of legislation.
And then we have the Equality Act, which was introduced in 2010, and the Equality Act is a really, again, another important piece of legislation, and what the Equality Act does is it brings together all the individual acts into one single act. But the reason it's important regarding race is because it includes protected characteristics and race is a protected characteristic and what that means that your racial background is something that needs to be taken into account as a protected characteristic.
So within under the Equality Act, race is really important and racial inequalities must be addressed. So, for instance, all into all public bodies, all institutions must comply with the Equality Act. So, for instance, in higher education, the public sector equality duty is one whereby higher educations have institutions have to think about how they are advancing equality, particularly in relation to race. So that all sounds fantastic, doesn't it? Sounds great that we've got this fantastic policy making around equity and social justice and race.
But despite these brilliant, significant advances in policy making. Race continues to be a factor in which marginalisation and exclusion exists not just for staff but also for students. So that's something that's really important, because you would expect that if we've had all this policy making, why is it that these inequalities continue to possessed in higher education? So I want to talk a little bit about staff in higher education, so I'd like to give you a statistic which I think is quite shocking.
So we have 13,845 white professors in the UK, and we use the term bme black and minority ethnic. And I know that that term is problematic and it's contested and we have to think about the fact that, you know we don't all have those experiences. So those experiences under BME are different for black individuals or a Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Indian and so on and so forth. So there's differences with within those groups. We have to be a bit cautious as to how we use those terms. However, the most Starks statistic is that there are only 100 black professors in the whole of the UK and only 30 of them are women now.
I think that that's actually quite shocking, given the fact that higher education is meant to be a liberal, progressive Institut institution which has social justice at the heart of its agenda. So why is it that those numbers are very low? The other thing that's particularly interesting in terms of if we're looking at the statistics and again it takes me back to that notion that higher education is meant to be progressive is that if you're a black student, you are less likely to leave university with a 21 or a first class honours degree compared to your white peers.
If you are a black student, you are more likely to be unemployed six months after you graduate. If you are a black student, you are more likely to drop out of university. So why do we have these stark statistics, considering that we have this fantastic policy making and that higher education is meant to be a place which advances equality? So I would put it to you that these processes of racism, exclusion and marginalisation continue to persist because we have processes of white privilege in higher education which work to protect that white privilege and indeed, uphold uphold universities as a white space reserved only for those from white backgrounds.
So I think it's really important, and I can hear my colleagues and others saying, Well, can you talk about white privilege? But what is it? How do you actually define it? And I think that it's really important to understand how the concept of white privilege works So white privilege can be described as, uh, an invisible weightless rocks rocks back that white people have on their backs all of their time. That's how Peggy McIntosh She's a fantastic sociologists who described it many back in the eighties.
So white privilege includes this. This weightless knapsack, which includes things like maps, passports, code books, visas, tools and blank checks, which enable white people to have access to places that people of colour do not have. So examples of white privilege, for example, include that white privilege means you can walk through customs without being stopped. White privilege means you can park your car without a policeman coming and stopping and arresting you. White privilege means that you can use a restroom without someone calling the police on you.
So those are examples of white privilege that happen every day for people of colour and white privilege also means that you are less likely to be stopped and searched by a policeman in the UK So that's how white privilege works. It's a given it had taken for granted. So, for example, I know that when I walk into a restaurant quite often when I'm on my own, I'm treated very differently to when, for instance, I'm with a white man or a white woman, and they are treated differently by worthy of their white identity.
So I think it's important to understand that white privilege exists in all arenas of society. And there's some obviously recent examples that we've had in this week in the way in which racism has operates within the sporting industry and how that that is a form of white privilege, which works to disadvantage people of colour. So who benefits from white privilege? Obviously, white people benefit from white privilege. But what I argue is that despite the significant advances that we have in policy making, I suggest that this policy making works to benefit white individuals.
So, for example, the policy making that exists in higher education around advancing inequality. Vice chancellors will only invest in that policy if it if it benefits them more rather than the groups that they are aimed at. So I would argue that policy making around race is based on universities wanting to sell themselves as diverse and as fair and as having social justice at the heart of their agendas. Not because they are concerned with the experiences of black and minority ethnic students or staff they're not interested in Advancing those experiences is because that policy making will benefit them, and the ways that it will benefit them is because they use it as a performance to attract more students to come to their institutions who are paying £9250 a year and double that if they're international students.
So they want to sell themselves as fair. So they use this race policy making in their brochures and their websites and their prospectuses. But it's all a performance because if you look at what's actually going on in their own institutions, they still don't have any Black professors and their students are still complaining about racism. So I argue that policy making is performative. It's just a performance. It's something that we do just so that we can take the box and say, Oh yes, we are inclusive We are interested in race equality.
But yet fundamentally nothing really changes. Racism continues as business as usual, one could argue. Okay, so the space of higher education is really important for me when I think about how white privilege works within that particular space. And the space of higher education is one which, I argue continues to perpetuate white supremacy within the white racial social order. And, you know, I've given you those examples of the numbers of professors and also another actually good example of that is about 450 for higher education institutions in the UK we only have four vice chancellors who are from a minority background.
So that's another good statistic, I think, which demonstrates what I'm saying. So the reason that this takes place is because the space of higher education works to perpetuate the privilege of white privilege. So it works in in ways where, for instance, lecturers have stereotypes of students, so white middle class students are seen as a model students. They're seen as hard working, and they're seen as did diligent students. Black male students are seen as aggressive and intimidating. Muslim students are seen as potential terrorists and so on and so forth.
And quite often we also find. And there's a huge amount of research to show this that students are more likely to rate their professors and lecturers lower if they are from minority backgrounds. So it's generally white men who get highest marks or highest feedback and positive feedback in terms of students experiences. So there's all these different stereotypes that exist around whiteness and white privilege. So I want to talk a little bit now about a case study and some research that I carried out, which would demonstrate everything that I've just said.
And I'm particularly interested, as I've said, in the position of marginalised communities in higher education. So this piece of research was based on talking to academics who described themselves as minority academics who are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and I wanted to understand how they experienced racism within the white space of the academy or higher education. So I did. About 60 conducted about 65 in depth interviews in the UK and the US because I wanted to make a comparison in terms of higher education.
And what was particularly interesting about this study was the first thing that the academics and respondents talked about was how they felt they were positioned within the academy. So was there was this double edged sword, if you like. So on the one hand they were insiders because they were allowed to enter the white space of higher education. But at the same time, they were also outsiders because they were not fully accepted within that white space. And what was very interesting about this And this was particularly for for black working class women who talked about the ways in which the presentation of self was really important.
So this affected how they were seen by this by staff by their colleagues, but also by students. So it's very important in terms of how they dressed, the language that they use and the accents that they have, and so their notions of how good they were if you like, or their notions of credibility were linked to their presentation of self and how they presented themselves and many of them continue to talk about the ways in which this was not applicable to their white colleagues. So their white colleagues didn't have to think about things like how they would drive, how they dress the language, that they use their accents.
Because by being in that white space and by having that notion of white privilege, they were immediately accepted. So they so the black academics talked about the ways in which they had to fight to be accepted within this space. So they were outsiders inside. Which I thought was I think is really important, because going back to what I've said before is that we have this notion that higher education is liberal. It's progressive, is forward thinking it has social justice at the heart of its agenda.
But in reality this is definitely not the case. Another issue that respondents talked about was this notion of support networks, which was really, really important, and they felt as though they didn't get any support from their their colleagues. So many of them went outside the university to receive support. And quite often this support was from colleagues and piers that were all over the world, and this was pre pandemic, and they talked about the ways in which Skype was really important. So they had support networks from people that were in the US, the UK, the global South, the Indian subcontinent, the African continent, and so on and so forth.
So that support they had to go external to the university because they didn't have that support internally. And the support itself was really important in terms of where they had to publish which journal articles they should right where they should apply for funding and different types of types of societies that they should be members for, because all of these things were very important in terms of understanding how they should go for their promotion. So it was the knowledge that they had from their support networks wasn't knowledge that was provided to them by their own white colleagues.
So I think that that was really, really important. And it's what I called almost like a network of known. So it's people who know the ropes, people who tell you this is where you should publish. These are the conferences you should be attending, and so on and so forth, so this network of knowns with people who held the keys and they were gatekeepers that gave that would give academics that advice that they need to actually progress within their careers and all of the minority academics that I spoke to so that they didn't have access to this network of knowns.
They didn't have access to understanding what this knowledge was to enable them to proceed and, of course, why academics were more likely to pass on that knowledge to their white colleagues. And that's why I argue you have this perpetuation of white privilege through the ranks of higher education, and hence the reason why we have so many, so few professors from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Mentoring was also considered to be really important in this study, and again, we know that in order to progress to higher senior levels within higher education, mentoring is considered to be really important.
So, for instance, from my own experience when I was a junior academic, I was mentored by a senior academic who had gone through that route of becoming a professor, and I personally found it really beneficial, particularly in relation to understanding the process of promotion but also in terms of understanding the things that I had to do and also somebody who in some ways held my hand and step by step helped me to gain that promotion. Many of the black and minority ethnic academics I spoke to they said, Well, actually, that mentoring is not available in our universities.
And what's particularly interesting about mentoring is that universities don't have to have a formal mentoring in place or indeed informal. So there are pockets of really good practise where mentoring is taking place. But there's also examples of very bad practise. So I think what we need to do is to ensure that the mentoring does exist, is there and serves its purpose. And there is an assumption that mentoring is something that, uh, for instance, would best suit certain individuals in certain career trajectories.
But that's not the case. Mentoring is something that has continued, has to continue throughout individual careers. Many of the academics talked about that career route to professor, and this was something that was really, really important to them, particularly in relation to reaching that ultimate goal of being seen as a senior academic in higher education. But they talked about the ways in which the level just before Professor and in in the U. K s reader or associate professor, they felt as though their career kind of hit the buffers.
So it stopped in at that particular level and they couldn't progress any further. So there were ways in which they wanted to understand how that happened. But quite often it was the result of the promotion at that level being seen as an illusion. And although we all know that when we go for a promotion, there's a set of criteria that have to be introduced and we have to ensure that we tick those boxes so that we we do our our excellence in our teaching, our excellence in our research we are a good citizen and so on and so forth.
But what my respondents talked about was that in some sense there was a lack of transparency within that criteria, and within that lack of transparency, they felt that they were judged far more harshly than their white colleagues. Um, and so a different criteria was introduced when they decided to go for a promotion, and this was all within an informal process. So they felt that there was a process of hyper surveillance. So they were not just not just under the spotlight because they were going for promotion, But it was also the fact that they were under this process of hyper surveillance.
So they had to have brought more money in. They had to have published more. They had to have been on more committees. They had to have done more of an admin role and so on and so forth. So the goalposts changed for black and minority ethnic academics when they decided to go for a promotion. And I think that this is something that continues throughout higher education, and it's also very nepotistic. And it is actually an old boys network. So it's also based on whether you're face fits on whether the institution wants you to be somebody who represents them as a professor.
And that, I say and I put to you is an example of white privilege. Mm. So the respondents did talk very openly about processes of racism that they experience both covert and overt processes of of racism. They experienced racism from their colleagues in the form of micro aggressions, but They also experienced racism from students. And I remember one academic actually telling me a British Indian woman saying that one of the students had asked her some advice about their thesis, and she gave them that advice.
And this White students disregarded what she had said, and when then went on to ask a white as a white male academic about his advice and when he gave the same advice that she had given it was considered to be more credible and more important and taken on board. So this whole notion of credibility is important and is an excellent example of micro aggressions and how they take place through higher education and more worryingly, actually. And this is something that I've experienced myself is that when academics did complain about racism, it was quite often dismissed out of hand or seen as a clash of personality.
So oh, no, that's not racism cowl. That's something else. Racism doesn't exist in our university. So there was this refusal to understand that racism was actually a thing, and consequently, the complaints process that were in place were often not fit for purpose. So when academics did want to complain about that racism. Firstly, it was dismissed, and secondly, the processes that they had to go through were extremely difficult and had huge impacts on their mental health. And finally, they said that it's always very, very difficult to prove racism very, very difficult to prove that when something happens that it is racist is racism.
So, for example, I remember once respondents saying to me Well, unless my colleague comes up to me and hits me over the head with a baseball bat and calls me a racial slur, I know that's racism and other people will see that as racism. But it's those small individual microaggressions that continue in higher education that are more difficult to prove. And that, I think is very, very worrying, because what we have within higher education, then, is what I call a discourse of denial. So there's There's this notion that racism doesn't exist so that there is a denial of its presence in higher education and a refusal to understand how it works.
So consequently, higher education institutions don't have actually have to deal with it because they can simply ignore that it doesn't actually exist, and I think that in itself is very, very worrying within the white space of higher education. So where are we today? I think it's really important to understand that throughout the years we've had this policy making. We've had this significant change in higher education. But I would argue that the despite the tragedy, the tragic murder of George Floyd and the eruption of the black lives matter, protests.
We are business as usual. Racism continues in higher education, Racism continues in society, and really nothing has changed. The only thing that has changed is that we're having these uncomfortable conversations. But racism, I argue, continues business as usual because it works to benefit white groups to perpetuate and continue white privilege. So finally, I want to end with ways forward. So where can we Where can we go from here? What are some of the things that higher education institutions should be doing to really address these issues around racism? So, first of all, it's obvious, isn't it, that we need a greater visibility of black and minority ethnic academics within senior decision making roles? And I'm not talking about lowering of standards here.
I'm talking about equality in the hiring and firing process So we need a greater visibility of BME academics in senior decision making roles not just in terms of how they are represented, but also so that our students can see black and minority. I think individuals in as role models in senior roles, and I think that's usually important. All universities should think about having four more mentoring and networking in place so that they are supporting our black and minority ethnic junior academics so that they can go through that process and indeed achieve that promotion and universities really have to think about how they're doing this.
They must invest in it financially and ensure that what they're providing is fit for purpose. So I think that's really, really important. Universities must really think about their own processes around race, and I think that if they're not addressing racism, they're not addressing the attainment gap and they're not addressing why they don't have any black professors. They should be penalised financially. They should be absolutely penalised financially because money doesn't talk money screams, and I think that's the only way that universities will actually start to address these issues in a serious way rather than it being paying lip service, ticking the box token, mystic or perform or performance related.
So I think that's something that universities should actually really have to do and think about seriously. And finally, I just think that it's really important for higher education institutions to actually think about and acknowledge racism and how it works within their institutions. And I think they have to think about how it impacts on other academics, how it impacts on staff and the whole higher education community. So this is something that's crucial in relation to progress and moving forward.
And it's important and crucial because a failure to acknowledge racism results in a failure to act upon it. Thank you very much. Thank you so much for that car One, Um, absolutely fascinating. And the data really does paint a troubling picture. So thank you for giving us that insight into what's really going on in our universities. Um, you're absolutely right. I think we would like to think that the march towards progress is in one direction only. But I think some of those anecdotes told, told a different story, Um, I have a pile of questions that I would love to ask you myself, but I can see that we've had lots and lots of questions from our members during the talks, so we'll get stuck straight into those.
The first question we have is from Laura and Laura's wondering. Does private education at primary and secondary level exacerbate the problem of imbalances at higher education level? And if so, how can we ensure equal opportunity throughout the entire educational life cycle? Thank you, Laura. An excellent question. Fantastic question, especially for somebody like me who is particularly interested in privilege. So I think that I argue that once privileged, always privileged, so students who go to private schools when they're younger, this privilege is perpetuated in terms of higher education.
So if you attend a private school, you're more likely to end up in an elite or Oxford University. If you go to private school, you are more likely to be one of the height on the high earning threshold. So I would argue that what private schools do is they perpetuate privilege, white privilege usually, and they perpetuate inequality. So what we need to do is, firstly, we need to abolish private schools, and if that doesn't happen, that's very unlikely. to happen. At the very least, private schools should be stripped of their charitable status, so they are charities, so that affects the amount of tax that they pay.
So I think we should completely abolished schools because abolished private schools, because individuals who go to private schools are more likely to end up in privilege background. And I would like to give you a really good example of this during the during the Covid 19 pandemic, and when exams were cancelled, we carried out interviews with students who are at private schools and who had their exams cancelled. And we spoke to white students who said that their teachers were going to predict their grades as a star and they were going to gain the system even though they themselves will see these were great to see students.
So private schools are hugely privileged. They can choose their own exam boards, and there's lots of gaming of the system that works to perpetuate this privilege. And the reason why this works is because education, then, is a commodity. So private school parents are paying £15,000 a year, so they expect their Children to do work very well That's really interesting. Thank you, Calvin. Um, Audrey is wondering about if you could. You could describe a little bit about the processes that protect white privileges and university jobs specifically.
So, um, for those who employed in the academic sector, that's a really good excellent question again. So we know that there's a lot of research that takes place that's taken place, which is what I call CV whitening. So when you apply for a job and your name is Carol Bo Power, you are less likely to be short listed, so employers are more likely to shortlist individuals who have Western names. So that's the first step of inequality that takes place. And then, quite often when that happens, individuals are not called for interviews, and they they don't get the job.
So we have to step back a little bit in terms of the short listing processes and universities. I think if they want to change this, they have to think about targeting and advertising so they are less likely to actually use targeting advertising. So, for instance, in the U. K, we have the voice, which is a black news newspaper. We have Eastern I, which is an Asian newspaper, so they don't target the correct places where they can actually attract black and minority ethnic academics. But the processes of code because usually covert racism that exists, usually during the C V whitening process and also during the interview process itself.
So quite often we see that within that process itself, individuals are automatically disqualified because of the way that they look. So the institution doesn't really want a British Asian professor in their in their department. They want to make sure that who they employ matches the way that they want to show themselves. Well, it really is pervasive when you start getting into it, and it leads us up really nicely to a question from from Shantel and Shantel is wondering how we can hold universities accountable for their racial policies.
I think we need to link policy we need to link policy making and what universities are doing to funding. So, for example, if universities are not addressing racism in their institutions, if universities are not addressing the BME attainment gap, I either black students are less likely to leave university with a 21 or first compared to their white peers then those universities should be financially penalised. So, for instance, they should not be allowed to apply for funding. Some of their funding should be taken away from them.
And furthermore, when we have this policy making, it should be linked to funding. So we have in the UK what's called the race Equality Charter Mark and the Race Equality Charter mark. Existing universities and universities can apply for it, and they get awarded a bronze award. And I argue that those universities who haven't signed up to this award should not be allowed to apply for research funding. And I think that this is the only way that we're going to address racism and move forward. Otherwise, it will continue to be a tick box exercise and paying lip service.
And I think that universe, as I said, you know, money doesn't talk. Money screams. Universities are very worried about their financial income. So that is something that I think would actually work in terms of addressing racism. Thank you, Carol Ann. And we've had another great question from from a Lauren here, and Lauren is wondering when we look at higher education, um, and the inequalities in the sector. To what extent and in what ways does that inequality than impact society in a wider way? That's an excellent question, Lawrence.
So, for instance, it's that manifestation, isn't it, of white privilege? How white privilege continues, so it starts in education. But I think we need to take a step back here and look at primary and secondary education and some of the things that are going on there. So the statistics are very similar in primary and secondary education, so teachers are head, teachers are less likely to be black, teachers are more likely to be white and female, and then that perpetuates itself into university. So what happens after university is that white privilege continues in all arenas.
You know, it's it's alive in all elements of our culture. It's alive in schools, universities, colleges. We just have to turn on the TV, where there's another example of racism in the media and so on and so forth. So white privilege works through white individuals occupying powerful positions. So judges, for instance, are more likely to be from a white background, and privately educated members of our cabinet are more likely to be white, and so on and so forth, so that white privilege continues in relation to the perpetuation, if you like of whiteness, so that you just have to.
You just have to look at the ways in which individuals are represented and who are the CEOs of organisations. Who are the judges who are the top lawyers, who are how many black academics work in Oxford and Cambridge. So the fact that these areas are this white space isn't represented by BME individuals is an excellent example of the perpetuation of white privilege. Interesting. And And we've had a question from from Audrey here, Audrey is wondering, um, job posts are often biassed because of the language that they use, and an example she's given is gendered words, for example, for certain job roles.
Is that something that you see in the space that you research also in terms of gender? Yes, it's very unusual for that to happen in relation to race, but within in terms of gender. Yes, it's absolutely the case in terms of the ways in which the work as you say, the discourse and the narrative that's used to describe and explain a particular role, and that's absolutely the case, and one of the things that I think is something that I'd like to pick on because the question has been asked on gender.
But quite often, what's really interesting about race is that race always takes secondary priority. So what? So there's this notion of what I call competing identities. There's always other identities that are considered to be more important. That's why within higher education, white women have been the main beneficiaries of policy making. And we can see that in terms of the numbers of white women who are professors, for instance. But this is nothing new, is it? If we just have to look at feminism, look at the history of feminism.
Feminism wasn't concerned with my experiences. Feminism was concerned with the experiences of white, middle class women. And so what's really interesting is that within this hierarchy, hierarchy of oppression is what I call it. We have individuals saying, Oh, I'm more oppressed because I'm a woman. Oh, I'm more oppressed because I'm disabled. Oh, I'm more oppressed because of this, etcetera, etcetera. It's a bit like Colombo in the TV series when he says, Oh, one more thing. So there's always one more thing.
So race is never allowed to be given a primary focus because there's always something else. There's always class or there's always gender that is considered to be more important. And I think that this discourse and narrative around competing hierarchies is really interesting, particularly in relation to how we look at that evidence in terms of who's benefited from policy making in higher education throughout history. Actually, thank you, Carol, and that's really interesting. And I'm wondering, um, we've had a question coming here about about apprenticeships and the questions asking how apprenticeships are helping representation, accessing companies by providing an alternative path to universities.
Do you have any data that shows anything in that space? I think that's a really good question. And I think that that's an important question because quite often within higher education and within career trajectories, we tend to think that university is the only thing that individuals have to do or can do to in order to be successful. And the research around apprenticeships shows that apprenticeships are popular for all different groups of individuals, particularly those from from white working class background and some for BME students, and I think that apprenticeships are a great way forward because they do show that there are different routes into success, if you like, and career trajectory that it doesn't always have to be higher education.
And we know, however, at the same time that getting the degree means that you are more likely over your lifetime to earn more than somebody who doesn't get a degree. And we also know that getting the degree has a significant impact on social mobility, future life chances and, indeed, access to well paid jobs within the labour market. So I think on the one hand, so I'm kind of giving you a politician's answer. On the one hand, I'm saying that that apprenticeships are good. But on the other hand, I'm saying that there needs to be more investment in those apprenticeships, and we need to change the discourse about the fact that it's not.
There's nothing wrong with having an apprenticeship. And where does that lead individuals in terms of social mobility, that's really interesting. And if we go back to look at access to university, um, in countries where university education is free to access, do you see that, uh, make any impact on the diversity mix in those institutions. Do we think that the cost of education is a potential inhibitor? That's an excellent question. Yes, absolutely. It is. So We know, for instance, that students from poor backgrounds, students from marginalised backgrounds, students from BME working class backgrounds are less likely, first of all to go to university because of the huge financial debt that is incurred.
But secondly, when they do go to university, they are more likely to work part time to have to work part time for financial necessity, and that has a knock on effect on their studies. So it affects the time that they can spend on their studies, and consequently they are less likely to leave university with a 21 or first. So when I went to university, I was given many, many years ago, I was given a financial grant and I had I didn't have to pay fees and I was giving living expenses and had that not been there.
There is no way I would have gone to university because my parents simply couldn't afford to send me to university and because they they just they worked in factories. They are manual labourers and there was no way they would have sent me to universities. So had fees been introduced, I would not have gone to universities. So I think that we really need to think about the way in which financial the financial aspect of universities works. And that's another excellent example of the ways in which, within this market ties climate that we live in.
What's happened, sadly, is that education has become a commodity to be bought and solved. So there is no such thing as equal opportunity to education, whether it's private school or higher education, because of the financial implications that burden that it puts on individuals and indeed their families. That was absolutely fascinating, and unfortunately, that's all we've got time for. I think we could have kept going and going. There's still questions unanswered, but thank you so much are wonderful.
Fellow Professor Cal want Bhopal for answering all your great questions current. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you and thank you so much for arming us With all that critical data and analysis, I'm sure you've given our members a huge amount of food for thought. You've certainly given me a huge amount of food for thought, so thank you very much for joining us