Muslims In Education

‘Research Insight: Religion and Belief in UK Higher Education; Analysis of Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) student data for 2017/18’. Advance Higher Education. Natasha Codiroli Mcmaster, 2020.

Muslim students were underrepresented at the most ‘academically selective’ institutions.
Degree attainment- nearly nine out of 10 students who declared their religion as Jewish graduated with a First or 2:1 degree. Students with no religion also qualified with relatively high attainment. In contrast, less than two-thirds of Muslim students graduated with a First or 2:1
Other reasons that account for attainment gap amongst Muslim students include: competing priorities, for example, juggling university studies, part-time work and/or childcare, commuting times and understanding academic mores and expectations.
Some factors were specifically related to religion, and many were practical constraints. For example, students reported feeling simultaneously ignored by others and uncomfortably ‘seen’ (ie being excluded from group work because of perceptions about their willingness to contribute to discussions, or being singled out because they are dressed differently to their peers). These experiences were gendered to some degree, with Muslim women in traditional dress particularly affected. As noted by Stevenson (2018), this is particularly pertinent in a context where Muslims are often portrayed negatively in the media, with students themselves reporting that this portrayal has led to discrimination and harassment. Students also pointed to a lack of knowledge about Islam among staff. This finding is mirrored by the findings in this Insight that there is an underrepresentation of Muslim staff compared to the student and general population.

Stevenson, J (2018) Muslim students in UK higher education: Issues of inequality and inequity. London: Bridge Institute for Research and Policy.

Socio-economic disadvantage is negatively associated with academic success and people in ethnic groups most strongly represented in the Muslim faith (Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Black African people) were most likely to have grown up in and currently live in persistent poverty.

Muslim students least often, graduated with a First or 2:1 degree whether their parents had a HE qualification or not.

Particularly striking is the under attainment of Muslim students compared to the general student population, and that the extent of this attainment gap differed widely across institutions.

The Social Mobility Challenges Faced by Young Muslims, September 2017
Jacqueline Stevenson, Sean Demack, Bernie Stiell, Muna Abdi and Lisa Clarkson; Sheffield Hallam University
Farhana Ghaffar; Oxford Brookes University Shaima Hassan; Liverpool John Moore’s University

The research suggests that young Muslims already encounter significant barriers in the education system itself. Young Muslims feel that:
Teachers have either stereotypical or overly low expectations of young Muslims.
There are insufficient Muslim teachers or other role models in schools and non-Muslim teachers are reluctant to engage with them.
They are placed in middle or lower sets and where this happens teachers fail to listen to requests to move up to higher sets.
Young Muslim are scared of raising these issues or seeking help because they fear that this will emphasise their difference and may make them targets for bullying or harassment.
As they moved up the school system, young Muslims said they lacked the support necessary to succeed.
Parents, particularly if they were educated in a different system, were less able to support them in their studies and they lacked requisite capital, knowledge or access to social networks to help their children make informed choices.
Young Muslims felt that schools did a poor job of filling this gap. In their view, there is insufficient and inadequate individual tailored support, guidance and encouragement for young Muslims to take specific or challenging subjects, take part in extra-curricular activities, or explore alternative pathways to education or employment.
Higher Education
Young Muslims have a relatively high level of participation in higher education, but their choices tended to be more constrained than those of some other ethnic groups. The Muslims interviewed in this research complained of inequitable access to high status universities as a result of geographical provision, discrimination at the point of entry, or self-limiting choices reflecting fears of being in a minority.

Incidences of Islamophobia or racism, a failure to recognise Muslim identity, lack of support for isolated minority students or to promote peer integration all affect young Muslims’ self-esteem and self-confidence.
The policies and practices of higher education do not take sufficient account of either the academic or the social needs of young Muslims.
These factors mean that young Muslims are more likely to drop out early or to gain fewer ‘good degrees’ (1st or 2:1) than their non-Muslim peers.
46% of the Muslim population live in the 10% of the most deprived local authority districts. This has implications for access to resources, school attainment, progression to higher education and the availability of jobs, including those at postgraduate or managerial levels

Despite high levels of career aspiration and strong work ethic, young Muslims need to work harder than their White British/non-Muslim peers to make the same progress in accessing and sustaining employment. They face repeated rejection at application and interview stages, perceiving this to be the result of both direct and indirect discrimination.

Inequitable access to high status universities, compounded by Muslims having significantly lower degree attainment than White non-Muslims, inhibits access to high status employment and thus has direct implications for social mobility.
Insufficient access to informal networks and financial, social, cultural resources or soft skills makes it more difficult for young Muslims to access and progress in the labour market. This is compounded by a lack of access to paid internships and/or work experience.

A job seeker with an English-sounding name was offered three times the number of interviews than an applicant with a Muslim name, a BBC test found.

Muslim men are 76% less likely to be employed than their white Christian counterparts, according to research by the Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship at the University of Bristol.

The 2015 ONS figures found that 58% of Muslim women were economically inactive. By contrast, 27% of all working-age women in the UK were economically inactive between March and May.
The percentage of Muslim women unemployed and seeking work was 16%, the ONS found – compared with 5% of women nationally.
The unemployment rate is calculated as a percentage of those who are economically active.
The figures suggest Muslim women are the least economically successful group in British society, the report added.
The report cited Demos’s analysis of the 2011 Census which found that nearly half (44%) of economically inactive Muslim women are inactive because they are looking after the home; this compares with a national average of 16% of women who are inactive for this reason.
The report cited a number of contributing factors:
Family pressures: There was a “conventional cultural acknowledgement” among Muslims that “women are homemakers and men are breadwinners”, academics told the committee
Islamophobia: Evidence suggested the biggest cause of the “acute” disadvantage felt by Muslim women was their religion, and impact of Islamophobia on Muslim women “should not be underestimated”
Recruitment discrimination: Muslim women can face discrimination based on their name, religious or cultural dress, and are more likely to be asked about marriage, childcare or family aspirations, the MPs suggest
Role of mosques: Some mosques were failing to involve Muslin women in the way they were run, which could have a negative impact on attitudes and women’s attempts to find work, the report said
Poverty and language barriers: The committee heard evidence that English language skills “continue to be a barrier for some”, and poverty disproportionately affects the Muslim population

Muslim students less likely to be awarded top class degrees
Only 18% of Muslims were awarded the top classification, a lower proportion than in any other religious group