What has been done so far?
Whilst there have been substantial efforts made within the last couple of decades to widen participation for BAME students in higher education, this is only half the story. Although, widening participation and access is an important aspect when it comes to creating equality of opportunity for all young people within the UK, it cannot be deemed to be the solution to the damaging issue of the BAME attainment gap.
With all higher education providers having to produce an access and participation plan for the academic year 2020-2021, widening participation is being considered as a priority for all universities. However, if universities are going to act as the drivers of social mobility then they need to be doing more to close the attainment gap for BAME students already enrolled at their institutions and increase student retention levels.
What is the state of the BAME attainment gap?
In the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Student Attainment at UK Universities: #Closingthegap report published in May 2019, in conjunction with Universities UK and NUS, the statistics show that the attainment gap for BAME students is as high as 13%. However, when discussing this attainment gap we are looking at students that have been able to complete their degrees which means that they have been able to overcome the numerous barriers BAME students have to overcome.
Furthermore, the 2017 On course for success? Student retention at university report states that Black students are almost 1.5 times more likely to not complete their degree than their White or Asian counterparts.
Attainment and success at university plays a key part in the future success of students, with more and more employers setting their minimum requirement for graduate roles to be a 2:1 or higher. With racial inequality having a huge impact on the success of BAME students, it is vital that universities are supporting their students and closing the attainment gap to ensure BAME students have the best opportunity to succeed in life.
What more needs to be done?
There is a long way to go before the UK can claim that their higher education system is racially equal. With this is mind, the Office for Students has been given new powers that allows them to fine universities that fail to work in the best interest of the students. These changes should encourage universities to take proactive steps towards creating an inclusive environment for all students and creating equality of opportunity for underrepresented groups.
The #closingthegap report sets out five key steps that universities should be taking to tackle the BAME attainment gap:
- Providing Strong Leadership
- Having conversations about race and changing cultures
- Developing racially diverse and inclusive higher education environments
- Obtaining evidence and analysing data on the attainment gap
- Understanding what works when it comes to improving BAME student attainment and experience
It is time for universities to act and take the vital steps needed towards providing an inclusive and equal environment within their institutions. Without this there is no hope to combat the deep routed social inequality that exists within the UK.