Effective practice advice
The following key features are highlighted as important approaches to tackling the degree awarding gap for black, Asian and minority ethnic students:
1. Take a whole provider approach
Approaches to tackling degree awarding gaps for black, Asian and minority ethnic students are embedded in all areas of work and not limited to particular departments or specific areas of policy and strategy.
They span academic and professional services to ensure equality, diversity and inclusion are understood and implemented as a core aspect of a provider’s approach.
You can find out more about a whole provider approach in Regulatory advice 6: How to prepare your access and participation plan - effective practice advice.
2. Provide strong leadership
Senior leaders and teams lead by example by taking ownership and accountability for closing the degree awarding gap for black, Asian and minority ethnic students.
Providing appropriate resources and embedding actions in relevant plans and policies that include targets and key performance indicators demonstrates commitment at the highest level. This is supported by commitments made in access and participation plans.
3. Facilitate conversations about race
Opportunities are created by providers and students to talk about race, racism and the awarding gap. Senior leaders can set an example by opening conversations and creating safe spaces in which staff and students can talk confidently about race.
It may be necessary to consider whether coaching and development would better facilitate such conversations and give people the confidence to engage in these activities.
4. Develop racially diverse and inclusive environments
A lack of ethnic diversity can impact on recruitment and retention of both staff and students. Providers should aim to increase or maintain diverse representation at all levels and in all areas.
The views of students can make a valuable contribution to addressing identified gaps and barriers.
Training offered to address degree awarding gaps should be evaluated to understand how it is implemented and its impact on staff recruitment, teaching, assessment and inclusive curricula.
5. Review curriculum, teaching and learning practices
Assess the extent to which the curriculum and teaching practices impact on black, Asian and minority ethnic students’ achievement and whether there is sufficient acknowledgement and understanding about this across the institution.
Consider the actions already being undertaken, further measures required and take steps to implement, monitor and evaluate approaches to addressing identified weaknesses.
Acknowledge and reward staff who prioritise inclusion in their practice.
6. Use data to understand your students
Collect and analyse relevant data and use it to inform action plans and educate staff and students.
Review existing data and consider to what extent it enables an understanding about the causes of the awarding gap - how robust is the current data and where are the gaps?
Ethnicity interacts with a wide range of other factors such as social class, income, geographic location and other protected characteristics such as disability and sexual orientation which can result in individuals experiencing multiple disadvantages. Consider intersections within your data analysis.
Qualitative evidence is also important to understanding the experience of students and how this impacts on their progress.
7. Engage black, Asian and minority ethnic students
Collaboration, co-creation and co-production with black, Asian and minority ethnic students is important to understanding their experiences of higher education and developing activities that will address the degree awarding gap.
The contribution of black, Asian and minority ethnic students and staff should be recognised and rewarded.
8. Report and support
Ensure that there are ‘safe’ procedures for reporting incidents and provide appropriate mechanisms for reporting and handling incidents of racism and discrimination.
All students and staff should be aware of and understand the options available for reporting incidents, their limitations and available support. Reporting mechanisms should also be accessible to students studying or working outside of a provider such as on work placements or studying abroad. Procedures should follow guidance the Office of the Independent Adjudicator and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
Formal complaints should be undertaken by impartial staff trained to investigate racial discrimination and harassment. Complainants should be supported to understand possible outcomes and be kept updated about progress and outcomes.
9. Understand what works
Interventions that are targeted, evidence-led and which avoid the deficit model should be encouraged, and systems should be put in place to develop and evaluate innovative approaches.
A deficit model assumes that students are to blame for the awarding gap – that they are lacking skills, knowledge or experience. It ignores societal or institutional structures and the discrimination that exists within them, thereby placing ownership and responsibility for inequalities in attainment on the individual and not the institution.
Dedicated resources should be made available for tailored interventions and their evaluation including capability and capacity to collect and analyse data, evaluate and to undertake research.
Identifying and taking up relevant opportunities for collaboration, sharing resources and knowledge between departments and with other providers who operate in a similar context can be useful.