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Indians lead at Cambridge

A study shows 23.7 per cent Indian students had firsts compared to 21 per cent white students, writes Nabanita Sircar.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2003 19:47 IST

Indian students are more likely to get first class degrees at the prestigious Cambridge University than their white colleagues. But white students are seven times more likely to get a first than their black peers.

A four-year study conducted by the university has found that 23.7 per cent of students from Indian families and 21 per cent of white students were awarded firsts but only 3.1 per cent of black undergraduates got the top mark.

Joan Whitehead, of the university's education faculty said more research was needed into the reasons for under-performance of black students. "The difference is marked enough to cause concern. A significant minority of these students do not thrive in the Cambridge context. This is a problem throughout the education system.

"It isn't that they are all having difficulties; it just appears that more of them are having difficulties than other students. It is not that they are failing, and I think it is very important to make that point," she said. The research found that only 2.4 per cent of whites gained third class degrees, compared with 15.6 per cent of blacks.

Dr Whitehead said that the fact that black postgraduates at Cambridge who had been educated overseas showed a high level of performance, suggested that the university was not at fault. "I don't think a university that does its best to attract and fund overseas students from all ethnic backgrounds can be institutionally racist."