Bridging the gap and sharing the learning
"This project has been an exciting opportunity for Kingston, Hertfordshire and Wolverhampton universities to explore our approaches to the BME attainment gap and learn from each other"
Nona McDuff, Kingston University
The attainment gap in performance for Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students is under the policy spotlight and is an increasing cause for concern in the higher education sector. Although the attainment gap has been known for some time, there is remarkably little information available about effective institutional strategic responses to ‘bridging the gap’.
The Higher Education Academy in its commitment to excellence in teaching and the improvement of learning outcomes has supported Kingston University to explore (in collaboration with University of Hertfordshire and University of Wolverhampton) effective institutional strategic approaches to closing the BME attainment gap.* This includes understanding the transferability of the value- added (VA) metric developed at Kingston (a metric that powerfully highlights differences in attainment which cannot be explained by student entry qualifications or the subject of study).
All three institutions were selected as they previously had an institutional commitment and a proven track record of institutional strategies to support BME student success. The Higher Education Academy (HEA) funded project has allowed the partner institutions to explore what works, for whom and in what circumstances and generated some excellent learning for the sector.
Working with key staff members from each institution as well as executive officers from the three students’ unions, project leads focused on the sharing of good practice between the institutions as well as identifying similarities and differences in approaches.
**For more information on the BME attainment gap see Undergraduate retention and attainment across the disciplines (2014), Higher Education Academy and Equality Challenge Unit
The project approach
The project approach to addressing the attainment gap focused on four key elements:
Each of these elements need to work together to contribute to addressing the BME attainment gap, one is not of more importance than the other. While this website has been designed to act a pool of resources where elements can be picked up independently of others, the organisational change section reflects the overall approach and could be a useful starting point.
Each element below contains a collection of information and resources that we hope will assist in addressing the BME attainment gap within your institution.
One of the four streams of the collaboration has focused on comparing how the different universities have sought to address the attainment gap by implementing change across their institutions. All recognised that this was fundamentally about changing organisational culture. As part of this project, Kingston carried out a series of interviews with vice chancellors (VCs), student union representatives, project leads from each institution, and Kingston University Governors. Here is a summary of some of the lessons learnt. While there are benefits and risks to each element, it is of vital importance that institutions hoping to address the attainment gap are clear what these are for their own institution and mitigate for them as required.
While the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) attainment gap may be well known within the higher education (HE) sector, the use of metrics is crucial in helping define the size of the gap and key in assessing the success of interventions implemented to address the gap.
For Kingston University, a key element in addressing the BME attainment gap is the use of the value-added (VA) metric. An important part of this project was looking at the transferability of the VA score into other institutions (the VA score was developed and rolled out at Kingston University) and to see if similar success could be replicated.
An integral part of the work to address the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) attainment gap is the development of an inclusive curriculum. An inclusive curriculum is universal and intended to improve the experience, skills and attainment of all students including those in protected characteristic groups. It aims to ensure that the principles of inclusivity are embedded within all aspects of the academic cycle.
Student support services are a key area for addressing the Black and minority ethnic (BME) attainment gap across the three partner universities. While there are many examples of student support activities, here we have documented some of the successful programmes that may be transferable to other institutions who are interested in addressing the BME attainment gap.
Kingston University – Nona McDuff, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Wolverhampton University – Phil Gravestock, Dean of the College of Learning and Teaching, (email@example.com)
Higher Education Academy – Dr Joan O’Mahony, Academic Lead, Retention (firstname.lastname@example.org)