North East student responds to measures tackling ethnic disparity in university grades

Newcastle University’s Afro-Caribbean society president welcomes new measures introduced by the government to ensure universities are doing everything they can to tackle ethnic disparity in attainment.

Kemi Adediran says he is pleased universities will be “held to account” in making sure they are providing an environment in which black and ethnic minority students can achieve.

This comes after figures from the Race Disparity Audit and the Office for Students (OfS) found that only 56 per cent of black students achieved a First or 2:1 compared to 80 per cent of white students in 2016/17.

On possible causes for the lower attainment among black students Kemi said the university itself still had a lot to do. He said:

“Especially, in regards to the curriculum: take, for example, Biomedicine and the lack of representation in texts books or in the Humanities departments and its lack of international texts.

“This neglection of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) figures in the curriculum serves to isolate and ‘other’ these students.”

Kemi also feels that struggling with university life may have an impact on attainment, listing struggles that black students face as:

  • Perception bias from lectures/seminars leaders
  • Racism within and outside of the university
  • Cultural pressures to succeed from parents
  • Economic issues (balancing part work and university to make ends meet)
  • Isolation from ethnic community living in the North
  • Language barriers (for those who English is their second language)
  • Cultural perceptions of mental health (meaning many BAME neglect use of Mental health help due to ethnic perceptions)

However, Kemi feels that good work is done by the Students’ Union and societies, if not the university itself: “I feel that the student union, through societies/events do a lot to accommodate BAME student.

“The union is very willing to help where it can to ensure students of all backgrounds has an enjoyable experience.”

All Universities will have to publish data on admissions and attainment, categorised by ethnicity, gender and socio-economic background.

They will be held to account on what plans they have in place to improve attainment for under-represented students, such as those from ethnic minorities, which are to be scrutinised by the OfS.

The Race Disparity Audit was set up by Prime Minister Theresa May to tackle ‘burning injustices’ in society and the findings have led to reaction from Chancellor Duchy of Lancaster, David Lidington and the Universities Minister, Chris Skidmore.

Figures also found that, despite record numbers of ethnic minorities attending university, only 2 per cent of academic staff are black. Director of Soas University of London, Baroness Amos called this an “absolute scandal.” 

SR News approached the University of Sunderland, Newcastle University and Northumbria University to comment on whether they welcomed the approach, but heard nothing back.

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