UK universities must demonstrate their commitment to university-wide change as they seek to eliminate the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) student attainment gap in UK higher education, concludes a new report by Universities UK (UUK) and the National Union of Students (NUS).
Today’s publication of the report – Black, Asian and minority ethnic student attainment at UK universities: #ClosingtheGap – follows contributions from 99 universities and student unions and six regional roundtable evidence sessions with 160 attendees on how the attainment gap should be tackled. These five steps for universities to improve BAME student outcomes have been identified:
Baroness Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS, said: “Our universities are racially and culturally diverse, compared to many other sectors, but we are failing a generation of students if we don’t act now to reduce the BAME attainment gap.
“While many universities are proactive on the issue, this report and its recommendations aims to deliver transformation in our sector. It is important that universities act and are transparent in their approach so black, Asian and minority ethnic students are given the best chance of success. Inaction is not an option. Universities should be places where opportunity and aspiration come together.”
Amatey Doku, NUS Vice President (Higher Education), said: “Universities have presided over significant gaps in attainment between BME students and white students for far too long and I’m delighted that the sector has come together to chart a way forward with this timely report.
“From decolonising the curriculum to more culturally competent support services, many students and students’ unions have been fighting and campaigning for action in this area for years and this report highlights good practice, and clear practical steps for universities to take to begin to respond to many of the concerns raised.
“This report must be taken seriously by all senior leaders in the higher education sector and I look forward to seeing proactive steps taken to eradicate these unjust gaps in attainment once and for all.”
While it is accepted that university leaders, staff and student unions have worked together in recent years to reduce the attainment gap – including training sessions on understanding structural inequality, employing BAME student advocates and ‘role model workshops’ with BAME alumni guest speakers – there is more universities can do.
While there was an increase of more than 50% in the number of BAME full-time undergraduates in the UK between 2007 and 2017, 71% of Asian students who graduated in 2017 achieved a first or a 2:1, and just 57% of black students compared to 81% of white students. Data shows that qualifications before attending university, although a key factor in degree outcomes, do not explain the differences between ethnic groups.
Universities UK is asking vice-chancellors and principals to sign up to an online pledge to work with students and use the report’s recommendations within their institutions. Progress made by the sector will be evaluated in 2020.
You can read the full report here.