On 20 September The Times and Sunday Times released their Good University Guide (STGUG) for 2020. The guide details an overall ranking, amongst other statistics such as social inclusion. Exeter ranked highly overall, achieving the 12th position. Exeter was also identified as 2nd in the South West.
Despite these notable successes, when it came to social inclusion rankings, Exeter was placed at 111th for social inclusion out of a total of 115.
Social inclusion is rated under percentiles of the following components: state schools (non-grammar), ‘all ethnic’, black attainment gap, deprived areas, deprived areas dropout gap, first generation students, mature students and disabled students.
In terms of Exeter’s specific downfalls within social inclusion, it was found that the University’s black attainment gap was at -19.7 per cent, compared to -3 per cent at the University of Bradford, which ranked third overall in the STGUG social inclusion ranking.
When it came to social inclusion rankings, Exeter was placed at 111th for social inclusion out of a total of 115.
The percentage of state school students at Exeter, not including grammar schools, was only at 51.6 per cent. Furthermore, the guide shows that 15.5 per cent of students are working class.
Gaia Neiman, Working Class Representative for Feminist Society, said “In a place like Exeter, being working class is not the norm, and thus it doesn’t surprise me that as a university we sit so low in these social inclusion rankings.’’
‘‘This is clear in the fact that roles like mine need to exist in the first place, to help working class people like me feel included, where the overwhelming archetype of the Exeter student is that of a wealthy student”.
Since the Bracton Law Society WhatsApp scandal, issues of diversity have been much discussed at the University. In March 2018, screenshots were revealed of a group chat with homophobic, racist and sexist language. Students were consequently suspended and the society was later disbanded.
Upon the STGUG’s release, the University tweeted the academic ranking, but did not publicly address this rather alarming placement for social inclusion.
When asked to comment on whether they acknowledge the importance of this ranking and if they have an agenda to improve their ranking, a university spokesperson responded:
“The University of Exeter is committed to the principle that everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education should have equal opportunity to do so. The Times low social inclusion ranking is not where we want to be.
“While we have seen sustained improvements in the diversity of our student body, and high rates of retention, attainment and progression, we know there is much more to do. This work is at the core of our recent five year Access and Participation Plan available on our website”.
The University also offered some of their own statistics, showing that the number of BAME students has increased from 7.2 per cent in 2013/14 to over 10 per cent of all UK students.
Progress on other social inclusion measures is most noticeable in the South West, where the latest verified figures show 88.9 per cent students came from state schools, compared to 63.6 per cent for the rest of the UK.
35.5 per cent were from low participation areas compared to 12.6 per cent for entrants from the rest of the UK. 16 per cent were mature, compared to 3.4 per cent for the rest of the UK.
The University of Exeter is committed to the principle that everyone with the potential to benefit from higher education should have equal opportunity to do so.University of Exeter spokesperson
VP Education Penny Dinh said “I am personally really disappointed Exeter has received this ranking, however we are really supportive of the steps the University are taking to address these issues through a New Access and Participation Plan submitted to OFS which clearly identifies targets for raising access to the University, and the Development of the new EDI strategy.
“We are proud to have played our part in the planning of these and are looking forward to supporting their implementation. These are just two things within a wider range of work which needs focusing on.
We look forward to further engaging with the University and improving the experience of minority students at Exeter, and hope this disappointing ranking serves as motivation to achieve this.”
This article originally appeared in print on 30 September 2019.
Editor: Pete Syme