The government has recently announced that it intends to improve the performance of black, Asian and ethnic minorities (BAME) at the university, and once again focuses on a topic that has long affected the higher education sector.
In fact, according to the latest figures, only 66% of BAME students 2016-17 achieved a first grade or a 2: 1 result, compared to 79.6% of white students. This is a problem that affects all universities and requires a deep understanding of the factors as well as a genuine commitment to solving the gap. There is no quick fix.
If we really want universities to have a significant impact on society, a little effort on access and performance is simply not enough. We need universities to make this a strategic commitment. This means that inclusion is used as a benchmark for the quality of our courses.
And if we really want to close the BAME performance gap, we need government incentives.
Universities could be recognized and rewarded for their progress through exercises based on metrics such as the Teaching Excellence Framework (Tef), which rates universities according to the quality of their teaching and student outcomes. That way, a university can get Tef-Gold as long as there are no black students getting a first-rate degree. This clearly does not reflect the outstanding quality of the teachers.
While some universities have made good progress in expanding access, it is not enough to just enter the students. We need to get them to go through their course and leave with a good degree. Due to these measures, universities have to do a lot more work.
The Student Office is committed to making progress in these areas with sticks. In an academic-driven higher education market, the measures we use to evaluate good performance should also focus on how well we contribute to a more egalitarian and diverse society.
To achieve this goal, it is important for universities to share good practices. Inspiring examples include the toolkit of the inclusive Hertfordshire curriculum and Birmingham ‘s BAME ambassador program, which aims to foster a stronger sense of belonging among students and to create a dialogue between students and themselves
In Kingston, we launched a university-wide campaign to close the BAME performance gap. It starts with the senior leadership team and is a key performance indicator for the entire institution, including the development of an inclusive curriculum. If any of our courses fail to meet our goal of achieving BAME, we will intervene immediately to resolve the issue.
Different learning communities create a rich environment that challenges what we know and value: this is the core of good teaching. The new perspectives with which students are exposed to diversity lead to a question or a task. That’s exactly what employers expect from graduates. The industry is looking for a more diverse workforce, and the universities are committed to it.
Our colleges should be affluent places where students share their experiences and learn from each other. Universities need to be passionate about diversity by changing their way of working to provide equal opportunities to all students, regardless of their background. This can only happen if the universities are adequately held accountable and action is taken to diversify and include quality education.