16 percent of Britain’s undergraduate body comes from a black or ethnic minority background, with 60% of black and 36% of Asian students attending only 30 universities.

Ethnic groups are plagued by underrepresentation and educational opportunity beyond university, as seen in the 30 universities with the highest proportion of ethnic minorities being frequently overlooked by employer recruitment strategies.

British education is wracked by inequality of access.

Grade inflation, stricter entrance exams, gruelling interviews and expectation of well-rounded candidates have favoured those attending the best public or grammar schools.

Meanwhile, underprivileged inner city schools lack the same teaching, extracurricular activities and guidance. A feature further compounded by lower expectations in areas where few go on to reach proverbial ‘success’.

To address this disparity, affirmative action (AA) government initiatives seek to give preferential treatment to these underrepresented groups in order to tackle discrimination and set right past mistreatment and prevailing inequalities.

It does, however, lead to unfair treatment in education and employment for those from non-minority backgrounds, disadvantaging them and leading to the status quo we experience today.

This is somewhat problematic. Let’s consider the definition of racism: prejudice or discrimination against a different race based on the belief that they are different. To discriminate in the way that AA does, regardless of its positivity or good intentions, comes  at the expense of whites under affirmative action in this way is, therefore, racist for making the distinction.

Why AA isn’t effective

Even if we ignore the racist tones of AA, it’s efficacy remains highly questionable.

One reason for the difficulty in improving minority conditions is reflected in their smaller share of the whole population of low-income families.

Targeting lower income thresholds doesn’t solve the underrepresentation problem faced by minorities. People of colour make up a higher proportion of this cohort, but whites remain the majority in a population of 3% black ethnic.

Regulation to tackle discrimination often arise from taboo buzzwords that are pulled out the draw and paraded around in a perverse game of virtue signalling.

It happens a little like this: accusations are made, the policy makers respond hastily to quash any associations with themselves as culpable or indifferent.

The prior analysis is subject to limited research from across the board and we are left to pick up the pieces of rash decisions that equated to knee-jerk responses that are rarely successful.

The token individual will always succeed and strive for more, but that leaves behind swathes of society under a veiled tyranny of low expectations. AA belies whole undercurrents of social exclusion, by superficially crediting individual accounts with ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ cards.

Regressive not progressive

If not deflated sufficiently, then yet another negative aspect of AA is there is no improvement in the area or social group the candidate comes from.

Assistance programmes harm individuals because ‘getting help’ is more expedient than ‘working hard. As Anthony Joshua, World Heavyweight Champion and immigrant from a Watford estate, attributed his success: ‘Discipline is what makes you do everything you got to do.’

When the Oliver Twist hands extend and this becomes a cultural entitlement to handouts, this denigrates the achievements of those who make it by their own sweat, blood and tears.

On top of which, the white majority end up feeling threatened by the punitive nature these ‘social credits’ exclude them from, fuelling suspicion, derision and social disunity.

There is, however, a legitimate case for broadening applicant pools to help underrepresented groups.

By the time it comes to applying for university, however, the divide is too large to bridge.

The targeting of differences needs to start much earlier. From school meals, to after school clubs to engaging children in the tenets of literacy and numeracy and filling their minds with possibilities of a brighter future – that they can become whoever they want to be and setting those aspirations higher than the area would allow for.

Then, we may reach a semblance of a more meritocratic society, reduce division and increase social cohesion.


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About the Author

Richard Bolton

Richard is a third year PPE student at University of Manchester and Editor-in-chief of The Manchester Magazine.

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