Key performance measure 7
Degree attainment by ethnicity
KPM 7 measures the proportions of graduates within broad ethnic groups who achieve first class degrees and compares these to the proportion of all students receiving a first class degree.
Difference between proportion of students within ethnic groups achieving first class degrees and the overall proportion for all students
One of our strategic goals is that students’ access, success and progression are not limited by their background, location or characteristics. If our interventions to meet this goal are having the desired effect, we would expect gaps in degree attainment for different groups to close.
We also have a strategic goal to ensure higher education awards are credible and comparable to those granted previously.
We recognise that some will see a tension between our overall goal to curb grade inflation and our goal of narrowing the degree attainment gap for different ethnic groups. We are clear that providers should not close any awarding gaps simply by awarding more first class degrees to some groups of students, without ensuring that such awards properly reflect students’ knowledge and skills. This would not be consistent with our work to ensure awards are credible and comparable to those granted previously.
Instead, we expect the proportion of students gaining first class degrees to fall overall, while more black students gain the knowledge and skills to achieve a higher proportion of the firsts awarded.
The substantial increase in the proportion of students achieving first class degrees over the past decade, shown by KPM 3, should slow, level off and reverse.
At the same time, the proportion of students within ethnic groups receiving first class degrees, shown by KPM 7, should converge towards the proportion for all students (KPM 3).
KPM 7 shows that the proportion of white students receiving first class degrees in 2021-22 was 3.9 percentage points higher than the proportion for all students. For students in all other ethnic groups, the proportion who achieved first class degrees was lower than the proportion for all students.
The proportion of Asian students who achieved firsts in 2021-22 was 4.9 percentage points lower than the proportion for all students. This is wider than the gap in 2020-21, when it was 3.3 percentage points lower.
For students of mixed ethnicity, the proportion of firsts was 1.4 percentage points lower than the proportion for all students in 2021-22, the same gap as the previous year. For those of other ethnicities the gap was 7.5 percentage points, widening from 6.3 percentage points the previous year.
The degree attainment gap for black students was larger. The proportion of black students receiving first class degrees in 2021-22 was 15 percentage points lower than the proportion for all students. This is a reduction from 2020-21, however, when it was 16.7 percentage points below the rate for all students. The first class degree attainment gap between black and white students has narrowed slightly.
KPM 7 uses individualised student data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) Student Record and the Individualised Learner Record from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). It is based on full-time undergraduate degree (first degree and degrees including a postgraduate component) graduates domiciled in the UK obtaining classified honours degrees from higher education providers in England.
Before 2020-21, all higher education providers in England are included. For 2020-21 onwards we include only providers who were registered with the OfS at some point between 1 August and 31 July in each academic year. This means the number of providers included in each year will vary.
Students are divided into broad ethnic groups: Asian, black, white, mixed, other. The proportion of graduates within each group who achieve a first is calculated. This is then compared to the proportion of all graduates who achieve a first.
If you have any queries, feedback or suggestions about KPM 7, please contact Annalise Ruck at [email protected].
Last updated 23 March 2023 + show all updates
23 March 2023
- Update to include 2021-22 data.
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