Supporting black, Asian and minority ethnic students

The Office for Students has identified black, Asian and minority ethnic students as a group that may be particularly vulnerable during the coronavirus pandemic.

These case studies describe some of the ideas and practices that universities and colleges have put in place to respond quickly to the need to support black, Asian and minority ethnic students during this time.

These interventions have been developed at pace and have not yet been evaluated for effectiveness. Their inclusion is not intended to stipulate particular approaches or endorse the actions of specific institutions. They are offered in the spirit of sharing practice that others may find useful and applicable to their own contexts.

We are keen to hear more from universities, colleges, students’ unions and other organisations about their efforts to support black, Asian and minority ethnic students during the pandemic. Please send your case study to .

In late February 2020, responding to increased incidents of harassment against the Chinese community, the University of Bristol reaffirmed its proud history of welcoming students and staff from across South East Asia, and stressed that students should not be treated adversely as a result of their personal choices around wearing face masks.

The university encourages students and staff to report any incident of racial harassment and to seek support. A ‘report and support’ service allows any student or member of staff who experiences an incident of prejudice, harassment or hate crime to report incidents anonymously. Alternatively, students can choose to give their name when making a report to receive support from the student wellbeing service.

Staff in student services have been offered training in hate crime awareness. The university hosted a webinar on hate crime and harassment with a panel including the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience, the Director of Stand Against Racism and Hate and the Chief Inspector of Avon and Somerset Police. Staff and students can also contact Stand Against Racism and Hate for advice and support.

The university also provides access to Nilaari, a culturally appropriate counselling service based in Bristol which helps to support black, Asian and minority ethnic students. Students can make a telephone appointment while social distancing restrictions are in place.

Target Oxbridge is a programme run by Rare, a diversity specialist. It supports 160 black African and Caribbean students each year who are applying to Oxford or Cambridge universities with one-to-one support throughout the application process.

When the March launch event and Easter residentials were cancelled due to the pandemic, Rare wanted to ensure that applicants on the programme would still be able to benefit from talking to current black students at the universities about their concerns about fitting in at university. They moved the launch online, with a webinar featuring a discussion panel of black Oxbridge students.

Following the online launch they designed a ten-part webinar series using survey data to cater to participants’ interests. As with the launch webinar, students can watch the webinar recordings when it suits them.

Five podcast episodes provide advice to parents, teachers and learners on how to approach the Oxbridge admissions process. Each episode includes advice from the Target Oxbridge team and an interview with a Target Oxbridge alumnus who has studied at Oxford or Cambridge.

Rare is continuing to provide tailored support to individual Target Oxbridge participants by phone and email. 


We recently hosted an online event on supporting black, Asian and minority ethnic students during the coronavirus pandemic. We have now published recordings of the panel discussions

We have taken an active role in supporting the higher education sector to tackle sexual misconduct, harassment and hate crimes. This includes funding interventions at provider-level and hosting sector-level events for findings, evidence and interventions to be shared and disseminated.

In addition to our work supporting the sector in tackling sexual misconduct, harassment and hate crimes, we have prioritised eliminating gaps in degree outcomes between white students and black students. This is a key strategic objective for the Office for Students and it is expected that higher education providers will commit to reducing this gap in their access and participation plans.

We have also taken steps to address the underrepresentation of black, Asian and minority ethnic students at postgraduate research level. Prior to the pandemic, we were planning to announce a joint funding competition with Research England (RE) for project proposals to increase access and participation for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in postgraduate research in English higher education. This funding competition has been delayed until autumn 2020 but we have published a joint statement with RE on our intentions.

During the pandemic we will continue to share and signpost to resources and case studies that have been developed to support black, Asian and minority ethnic students. If you would like to provide a case study please contact [email protected].

We would encourage providers who are supporting students experiencing harassment or hate crimes to engage with the student safety and wellbeing resources available on our website.

Our consultation on harassment and sexual misconduct has been paused to reduce burden on providers during the coronavirus pandemic, but we would encourage providers to complete the consultation when they are able to submit responses.

Published 10 July 2020

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