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Student ethnicity

Disclosure date: 14 October 2013

Reference: FOI2013/090


Could you please provide me with the following information:

1) What proportion of enrolled students are from any BME background
2) What proportion of enrolled students are from:
a) Afro-Caribbean backgrounds
b) Bangladeshi backgrounds
c) Pakistani Backgrounds
d) Chinese  backgrounds
e) Indian backgrounds
f) other Asian backgrounds
g) other ethnic groups


1) You have not specified a year, so this response is based on the latest data available. SOAS publishes its Equality and Diversity Committee reports on the website at http://www.soas.ac.uk/equalitydiversity/reports/. The most recent report available covers the 2011-12 session. According to this report, 43% of students of UK nationality and 48.1% of all students are from a BME background. This information is recorded in Table 6 in the document at http://www.soas.ac.uk/equalitydiversity/reports/file84121.pdf .

2) The same report contains a breakdown of Home (UK) student ethnicity at Table 5. It does not break students down in the same way as you have requested (it records proportions by Asian (13.9%), Black (6.3%), Chinese & Other Asian (5.5%), Mixed (9.7%), Other (7.7%), and White (52.4%)).

Information in the remaining categories you requested that are not covered in these figures (Afro-Caribbean, Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani) is held by SOAS, but is exempt from disclosure under section 21(1) of the Freedom of Information Act, which removes the obligation on public authorities to provide information that is reasonably accessible to the applicant through other means. The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) collect data from all participating higher education institutions (including SOAS) and can provide data on request (albeit for a charge). Details can be found at http://www.hesa.ac.uk/content/view/35/134/. I should stress that section 21 applies even if information is only accessible on payment.

There is no obligation on SOAS to consider the public interest in disclosure when applying this exemption.

Please note that the data for 2012-13 will not be available from HESA until January 2014 (and the 2013-14 data, until January 2015 – this data is not yet held). This information is exempt from disclosure under the exemption for future publication at section 22(1)(a). It applies because the data will be available from HESA on the dates specified.

This exemption is subject to a public interest test. The arguments for and against are set out below:

Why disclosure at this time would be in the public interest

There is a general public interest in transparency and accountability of public bodies, and more specifically in the equality and diversity policy and performance of those bodies.

Why disclosure at this time would not be in the public interest

SOAS already makes available enough information to allow public scrutiny of its equality and diversity policies and performance. This is supplemented by the availability of more detailed data from HESA.

Premature disclosure of 2012-13 data could result in data being disclosed that has not been subject to all appropriate quality checks – it is not in the public interest for data to be disclosed that may present an inaccurate picture to those using the data.

The agreed timetable for disclosure of data by HESA allows higher education institutions to plan their resources effectively. It is not in the public interest for SOAS or other institutions to expend resources on making data available at an earlier stage than planned.

On balance, SOAS concludes that the public interest in withholding the 2012-13 data is greater than the public interest in disclosing it.