Public Service Needs You: Breaking Stereotypical Attitudes Towards The Public Sector

In the 2017 UK Police Diversity Report, it was stated that no police force in England and Wales has Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation which matches its local demographic. Police Now, Unlocked and Transform Society commissioned this research piece in 2018 to unpack the disparity through understanding university students perceptions of the public sector.   

The study collected a total of 2,040 responses from over 115 UK universities, with 1,253 responses being BAME students. The research underpins some key themes mirroring the problems in the diversity report and how we may tackle the negative attitudes towards public service roles.

Key Findings:  

  • Despite the growing interest in the public sector, especially as students enter their final year, BAME students are marginally less interested in public sector roles (12% as compared to 16% for white students).
  • When asked why students would not apply to public service roles and their views of the prison industry, BAME students tend to have a negative association with the industry and the responsibility that comes with it.
  • When shown the descriptions of the types of roles offered by Transform and Unlocked, 24% of BAME students were ‘likely’ or ‘very likely’ to apply, 5% higher than white candidates.
  • A contributing factor to BAME students disinterest in the public sector may be due to salary expectations. 63% of BAME candidates find a high starting salary important when selecting an employer as compared to 55% white candidates.  
  • While 80% of all students agree that it’s important that their future employer promotes a ‘diverse and inclusive’ environment, it is most important to BAME students (at 85%). With black students being the most concerned (95%) and only 69% of white students placing importance on this.
  • BAME students overall appear to be more influenced by parents rather than their peers. 24% of BAME students would stop the application process if their parents didn’t approve of their chosen career path.

There are still multiple negative perceptions of the public service industry, however, when the focus is on the unique opportunity the roles provide rather than the sector - students are more likely to apply regardless of ethnicity.

Download the full report here.