‘Long way to go’ to eliminate BAME attainment gap at universities

UK universities must take action to eliminate the black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) attainment gap, a report has said.

The joint report from Universities UK (UUK) and the National Union of Students (NUS) said a student’s race and ethnicity can significantly impact their degree outcomes.

Authors said the gap between the likelihood of white students and students from BAME backgrounds getting a first or a 2:1 degree was among the most stark – 13% among 2017/18 graduates.

The report said: “Many universities have made a considerable effort to address this gap over several years with collaborative work between university leaders, staff and students’ unions, but there is still a long way to go.

“Eliminating these attainment differentials and transforming the university experience for BAME students will require sustained work from across the higher education sector.”

Led by Baroness Valerie Amos, director of SOAS, and Amatey Doku, vice president for higher education at the NUS, UUK and the NUS have been working with universities and students since June 2018 to tackle the disparity between the proportion of top degrees achieved by white and BAME students.

The report 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.

Five steps for universities to improve BAME student outcomes have been identified and include providing strong leadership and having conversations about race and cultures.

The other three recommendations are developing racially diverse and inclusive environments, getting the evidence and analysing the data, and working together to understand “what works”.

Baroness Amos 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.”

Mr Doku said: “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.”