Nationally, there is a disparity in the number of 1st or 2:1 degrees awarded when examined through the lens of ethnicity.
Developing positive strategies
The attainment gap between Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) and white students studying in Higher Education (HE) is not a new issue, but a deep-rooted and contentious one. A government study of 65,000 students in 2007 found that even after controlling for the majority of contributory factors, “being from a minority ethnic community was still statistically significant in explaining final attainment”.
Eight years later, a 2015 Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) analysis came to the same conclusion. An Equality Challenge Unit report in 2015 found that BAME graduates were 15.2% less likely to receive a 1st or 2:1 in comparison to their white classmates. Exploring the gap further, the report also revealed that black students were still less likely to achieve a 1st or a 2:1 compared to all other ethnic groups.
In light of such a considerable gap in attainment across the HE sector, rather than placing the blame on the students, we believe that it is imperative to implement effective institutional strategic approaches to close the BAME attainment gap, including raising staff awareness and working with academic staff to develop strategies to change existing practices . RAFA2 endeavours to do just that.
At Roehampton, 52% of undergraduate students declared themselves as BAME with 57% at QMUL and 42% at Carshalton. That said, each institution had highly varied student numbers: Carshalton with 2,600, Roehampton has 8,535 and QMUL, 21,187 students
Benefits of collaboration
With RAFA2, collaboration was essential to accommodate three very different London institutions: Roehampton as a campus-based, research-intensive modern university, Queen Mary University of London, a Russell Group university and leading research-focused higher education institution, and Carshalton College, a Further Education college with HE provision, offering high quality vocational education at all levels in a small and supportive environment.
At the start of the project each institution had a similar BAME student make up. At Roehampton, 52% of undergraduate students declared themselves as BAME with 57% at QMUL and 42% at Carshalton. That said, each institution had highly varied student numbers: Carshalton with 2,600, Roehampton has 8,535 and QMUL, 21,187 students.
These institutions chose to collaborate because of similarities in their student demographic, geographical location and their proximity, which allowed the participating students to meet and work together. Another contributory factor was their differences. These differences would provide useful insight into how effective the various interventions will be within institutions of different sizes and composition. By reflecting on and making necessary adaptions, the methodology was adjusted to accommodate particular institutional circumstances, while enabling the three HEIs to work in tandem, allowing them to realise their targets within their strategic objectives, to reduce the attainment gap between BAME and white students.
Importance of research
Grounded within existing research, and based on two previous studies by the University of Roehampton (‘Journeys to Success’ (2010) and ‘Re-imagining Attainment For All’ (2012)), RAFA2 set out to explore what worked, to extend the knowledge base and in conjunction with academic staff and student partners, to develop practical solutions to contribute to sector-wide approaches to reduce and eventually overcome the BAME attainment gap
Broeke, S. & Nicholls. T. (2007). Ethnicity and degree attainment. Munich Personal RePEc Archive. MPRA Paper No. 35284.
Blair, S.L. and Qian, Z., 1998. Family and Asian students’ educational performance: A consideration of diversity. Journal of Family Issues, 19(4), pp.355-374.
Fullan, M. and Forces, C., 1993. Probing the depths of educational reform. Levittown, PA and London: The.