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Article misrepresented PSI study on ethnicity

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I am writing to set the record straight regarding the misleading article 'Architecture schools fail to help study on ethnic minority students' (AJ 5.6.03).

The research, and my own brief comments on its progress, have been misrepresented in ways which are likely to seriously prejudice both the remainder of the study and the reception given to its eventual findings.

Only about one-third of architectural schools in England have been contacted directly by the research team. This was not, as the article suggests, to request statistics on ethnicity but to request their cooperation in passing on details of the study to students who might be willing to be interviewed. This they have done, and we are grateful to both individual schools and to SCHOSA for their assistance. It was never, contrary to the suggestion in the article, the responsibility of schools to nominate individual students to be interviewed. Response rates from students have indeed been fairly low to date, and have varied across schools, but this is a matter of personal choice on the part of students, and I did not intend, as the article does, to suggest that this is attributable to the schools concerned.

Where there is a large variation between schools (and from year to year) is in the extent to which data on the ethnicity of students is available via HESA (Higher Education Statistics Society) returns. This data is being analysed as part of the study (together with UCAS data and RIBA education statistics), but the large amount of missing data means that the results must be treated with some caution.

We are aware that there may be a number of reasons why returns are incomplete, including a lack of standardisation in the reporting categories required by different bodies. While greater standardisation in available data would undoubtedly be helpful, this is something that needs to be addressed by the various bodies concerned, and is clearly not the sole responsibility of individual schools.

We are also surprised at the implication that publication of the research has been delayed, since this has been planned for the autumn since the outset.

We hope that the AJ will review it in more detail, and with more clarity, at that stage.

Dr Helen Barnes, senior research fellow, Policy Studies Institute, London

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