Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, has today welcomed a joint report by the National Union of Students and Universities UK, ‘Closing the Gap‘, which explores the attainment gap between black, asian and minority ethic students and their white peers at universities.

The report reveals that of the disparities that exist within higher education, the gap between the likelihood of White students and students from Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds getting a first- or upper-second-class degree is among the most stark – 13% among 2017–18 graduates. Black students are almost one and a half times more likely to drop out than White or Asian students (Keohane and Petrie, 2017).

The report also calls for universities to sign up to its framework for accelerating progress to reduce attainment differentials:

  • Providing strong leadership
  • Having conversations about race and changing the culture
  • Developing racially diverse and inclusive environments
  • Getting the evidence and analysing the data
  • Understanding what works to reduce the attainment gap

Mr Zeichner comments:

“This is an extremely important report, highlighting difficult issues within the Higher Education sector which are often ignored. University diversity has come a long way, but there is still so much more to do. I am pleased that universities such as the University of Cambridge have signed up to the framework outlined in the report, but its important that progress as a result of this is monitored, measured and published, and that we keep the pressure on for change.“

“I was particularly struck by the fact that 87% of respondents to the report’s call for evidence cited a lack of role models from different ethnic minority backgrounds as the most significant contributing factor to the attainment gap. It’s so important that universities commit to diversifying their staff and speakers as well as their studentship.“

“UK higher education is a global leader in the field, but we must not be complacent; we must continue to work to improve its diversity and make sure that every student can access an environment in which they can achieve their full potential.“

The report also emphasises the importance of inclusion and belonging. NUS (2011) found that when BAME students were asked why they were ‘less likely’ to be satisfied with their experience and less likely to get a first or upper second, respondents repeatedly cited feelings of discomfort, isolation and a sense of not belonging.”

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