Case study: Using a value added metric and an inclusive curriculum framework to address the black and minority ethnic attainment gap

Exploring the practicalities of embedding these innovative approaches into a range of higher education providers

Three students working together looking at books

Kingston University worked with the following five providers on this project:

  • De Montfort University
  • University College London
  • University of Greenwich
  • University of Hertfordshire
  • University of Wolverhampton.

The gap in attainment between white students and black and minority ethnic students is a major challenge for higher education in the UK.

Kingston University's focus on addressing this attainment gap over the last few years has seen the gap reduce from 29 percentage points in 2011-12 to 13 percentage points in 2017-18.

This success is founded on two innovative action-oriented interventions: a value added (VA) metric and the inclusive curriculum framework (ICF).

About the value added metric

Kingston University's value added metric is a way of measuring attainment gaps at institution, faculty, school and course level. 

The data is displayed through dashboards and then used to engage academic staff in discussion around the attainment gap.

About the inclusive curriculum framework

An inclusive curriculum is built on the recognition that student diversity is a key strength which provides learning opportunities for all students and staff. 

There are three core principles of the ICF:

  1. Create an accessible curriculum.
  2. Ensure that students see themselves reflected in the curriculum.
  3. Equip students with the skills to positively contribute to and work in a global and diverse environment. 

Hear students and staff at Kingston University talking about their involvement in the inclusive curriculum consultant programme and why it's important in the video below.

The principal aim of this project was to see if the value added metric and the inclusive curriculum framework could be embedded within five other higher education providers, to enhance black and minority ethnic student attainment and share learning with the wider sector.

The five partners were all committed to addressing the black and minority ethnic attainment gap, but had different contexts, starting points and approaches.

Kingston University supported the partner project teams to:

  • Develop detailed VA dashboards from institution to course level, by providing templates and offering face-to-face training.
  • Disseminate the dashboards and promote debate with course teams about attainment gaps and the action which might be taken to address them.
  • Understand, adopt, adapt and disseminate the ICF, so that it could become an integral part of approaches to teaching and learning, and central to quality assurance and quality enhancement processes.
  • Identify how the VA and ICF could be integrated with other practices and procedures to improve retention and success.
  • Enhance collaboration between academic, professional and student communities.
  • Train student curriculum consultants to work with staff to create more accessible, meaningful and relevant curricula at all levels of the institution.

A second key element of the approach was to foster and encourage collaboration to enable good practice to be shared across the six diverse providers.

Whilst Kingston University provided consultancy input for both the VA and ICF methodologies, the five partners set up the necessary project management within their institutions to ensure the success of the project and its sustainability.

The project has clearly established that the VA dashboard is both highly transferable and very effective in generating awareness of the black and minority attainment gap and discussions around it.

All the partners were enthusiastic about this approach and committed to continuing to update and use the VA dashboards at their university. 

While there were different views about the ease of generating the dashboard, all partners succeeded and saw updating it annually as being straight forward.

From their experience, if this approach is to be rolled out more widely across the sector, it is recommended to:

  1. Ensure those developing the dashboard are familiar with HESA data, Tableau and Microsoft Access (though Excel could be a substitute).
  2. Continue to offer a face-to-face training day, online training materials and access to the Kingston University dashboard, which were all seen as key support resources.
  3. Provide an online forum to share experience and solutions.
  4. Provide a more detailed technical guide (although only two of the five partners recommended this).

The picture in terms of transferring the ICF was more nuanced. While the VA was adopted in its entirety, the ICF was adapted to complement existing inclusive approaches.

All the partners were of the view that using the ICF, or parts of it, had enhanced their work on inclusivity.

The impact

There are already clear signs of a positive impact on students.

The VA score for the partners has increased significantly between 2016-17 and 2017-18.

The degree attainment of the black and minority ethnic students at these providers is now very close to the average for all students across the UK.

All partners are embedding the VA and ICF in their monitoring, planning, quality assurance and training approaches to addressing the attainment gap, ensuring its sustainability.

The project has also triggered partner providers to make changes to policy and strategy and introduce new measures to address the individual attainment gap issues in their university.

For further information about this project, please see Kingston University's project website.

A special issue of Compass Journal on ‘Creating conditions for student success – tools and frameworks that address student attainment gaps’ was also published through the project.

Case study author: Kristina Ellis, API Projects Manager and Owen Beacock, Student Voice and Black and Minority Ethnic Attainment Gap Manager

Published 22 January 2020

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