Planning work on BME Student Attainment

This year, I’ll be leading some work across the institution to challenge the degree attainment of students in different subject areas – we know that there is a wide difference in the number of good degrees awarded from subject to subject, and that this has an impact on student success after graduation and ultimately on university league table position.

When I look into the data on student success in more detail, we start to see other startling patterns. The one which stands out the most is the difference in attainment between white students and BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) students. This isn’t a situation unique to Staffordshire University, as can be seen in the statistical releases from the Equality Challenge Unit.


However, I am committed to tackling this issue head on within our university – driven by a commitment to social justice and an ability to “do the numbers””.

I fully accept that this is going to mean some difficult conversations, and already I’ve had some challenges when I’ve talked about this in faculties. It will also mean some significant learn for me, and a preparedness for many of us to talk about things that make us uncomfortable (or instance – do you know the difference between race and ethnicity? Or should you use the term BME?)

Reading the plan for the Equality Challenge Unit, I’m going to shamelessly copy the four strands of their strategy, and to adapt it to our own needs:

“Illuminate – Provide quantitative and qualitative evidence on equality and diversity within UK HEIs and colleges in Scotland to illuminate equality and diversity challenges in these sectors.

Articulate – Work collaboratively with and assist external bodies on equality and diversity matters that impact on UK HEIs and colleges in Scotland.

Champion – Develop the case for equality and diversity to secure and maintain the commitment and support of institutional leaders.

Transform – Work with all institutions to identify and change any cultural and systemic practices that unfairly exclude, marginalise or disadvantage individuals or groups, and to promote inclusive approaches.

– See more at:”


For us at Staffordshire, my initial thoughts are:

Illuninate – identify through our own data sets the levels of attainment of different groups of students, based on characteristic such a ethnicity, gender, disability and age. Compare with national trends to identify which specific areas we need to work on

Articulate – work collaboratively with a group drawn from across faculties and services and the Students’ Union (I’m delighted that Rochelle, our SU President, wants to be involved) to develop a shared understanding and message for the institution, together with practical steps that can be taken

Champion – develop a range of actions and measurable targets that can be tested through processes such as Annual Monitoring and Quarterly Business Reviews, to ensure commitment at the highest level

Transform – promote inclusive practices across the institution, related to recruitment, teaching and learning,assessment, personal tutoring, data analytics etc.

I don;t expect this to  be an easy journey, but it’s the right one to take. To provide some more background and some inspiration, we’ve got a great speaker, Dr Winston Morgan of UEL, to come and talk about the attainment gap at this year’s Staff Fest Learning and Teaching Conference.