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.
6-Education, Mind & Society
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