Ratha Perumal

Thesis title:

The Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Degree Awarding Gap: An exploration of its scope, impact and possible explanations at a post-1992 institution


Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) undergraduates in the UK achieve lower degree classifications than their White peers. Such lower outcomes lead to poorer employment rates and reduced access to postgraduate study. In response, policy has turned to address the ‘degree awarding gap’ as a first step in challenging racial inequality and social injustice in higher education provision.

Several studies have examined the causes and impact of the BME awarding gap. However, the problem persists. A possible reason for this failure may be to do with some gaps in those studies that my research aims to address. Through a purposive study in one super-diverse university, I will compare and contrast the experiences of BME students in three departments where the degree awarding gaps are characterised as ‘low’, ‘medium’ and ‘high’ in order to drill down into the phenomenon. One possibility is that dominant discourses of BME under-attainment may be hiding some different outcomes. Second, in many studies, BME students are ‘taken’ as a homogenous cohort; my study will explore issues of intersectionality and ethnic identities in relation to university experiences and attainment. Third, I will interview institutional staff tasked with addressing the BME awarding gap.

My study is framed by Bourdieusian concepts and ‘wicked problem’ theory, to complement what is currently known about the key drivers of the BME degree awarding gap in HE. Its findings will offer a unique contribution towards a better understanding of this longstanding,  ‘wicked’ problem.

First supervisor:

Ayo Mansaray


6-Education, Mind & Society




Flynn, N., Teemant, A., Viesca, K. & Perumal, R. (2023) Effective Teachers of Multilingual Learners: A Mixed‐Method Study of UK and US Critical Sociocultural Teaching Practices. TESOL Quarterly ISSN 1545-7249. http://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.3224

Viesca, K. M., Teemant, A., Alisaari, A., Ennser-Kananen, J., Flynn, N., Hammer, S., Perumal, R. & Routarinne, S. (2022) Quality content teaching for multilingual students: An international examination of excellence in instructional practices in four countries. Teaching and Teacher Education, Volume 113. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2022.103649

Perumal, R., Flynn, N., Viesca, K., Ennser-Kannanen, H. & Routarinne, S. (2020) What is effective pedagogy for multilingual learners? Observations of teaching that challenges inequity from the OPETAN project in England. In: Kirsch, C. & Duarte, J. (eds.) (2020) Multilingual approaches for teaching and learning. From acknowledging to capitalizing on multilingualism in European mainstream education. Abingdon: Routledge.

Perumal, R., Paffard, F. & White, R. (2019) Mediating theory and practice for multilingual learners in initial teacher education in England. In, Hammer, S., Viesca, K. M. & Commins, N. L. (2019) Teaching content and Language in the Multilingual Classroom: International Research on Policy, Perspectives, Preparation and Practice

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