More on BME Attainment

One of the reasons I look at this is because I am tasked with trying to increase the number of “good” degrees, ie 1sts and 2(i)s that we award.

It is obvious that if certain groups of students are less successful than others, then we need to understand why, and in so doing make sure that that all of our students have the same opportunities to succeed.

The Higher (24th January 2013) in an article “Black students reluctant to seek aid”, suggests that a reason for lower attainment might be because of a reluctance to seek help from lecturers. the suggestion is that unversities need to be more proactive in ensuring that black students access the academic support on offer.


In an era of increasing class sizes, this will be a challenge – if we can develop personal tutoring systems or encourage enough small group teaching  with formative feedback opportunities, we may be better placed  to identify when any of our students need extra support.

More details of the research carried out by Jacqueline Stevenson of Leeds Met can be downloaded from here.

“What Works” – HEA/Paul Hamlyn Foundation project on student retention and attainment

Staffordshire University is a partner in this project, and three of our discipline areas will be working specifically on clearly defined projects over the next three years:
-Business Management
-Music Technology

We recognise the importance of the development of “belonging” in the first year of study. We believe that the inculcation of a sense of cohort belonging (through involvement, engagement and connectedness with the university experience, teachers and peers) is key to adapting to change.
Our focus will include the classroom environment and the core practices of education as key influencers on student experience and success reflecting the salience of the related notions of a learning community and transition pedagogy.
We will therefore focus on the transition to higher education and how students learn to engage with the academic sphere, maximising the opportunities for students to develop a sense of belonging and identity by improving the range of support mechanisms that we offer. In parallel to this, we will develop and make readily available more robust data on student engagement and attainment.

The proposed work streams across three selected programmes are as follows:

• Revise personal tutoring to improve relationships between students and staff and to support development of graduate attributes (one award initially)
• Developing knowledge culture and identity of students through engagement with the Staffordshire Graduate attributes programme (one award initially)
• Develop mentoring for level 4 students by level 5 (one award initially)

For all programmes we will:

• Review and improve pre enrolment communication and activities
• Review and improve welcome semester activities
• Improve data systems to support better tracking of student engagement and success
• Pilot the use of a student engagement survey based on the Australian AUSSE

Outcomes realised through participation:

• Students will develop a better sense of belonging to HE and to the institution with stronger relationships with academic staff and especially with their personal tutors which will encourage greater engagement with learning and teaching activities.

• Academic staff will be more engaged with their personal tutees, and be able to support the further development of academic community

• Improved data reports will be developed to support academic and faculty management staff to understand and recognise overall trends in withdrawal, retention and success.

• Improvements in retention and success at award level will be measured through our portfolio performance review system.

Expected quantitative measures of outcomes:

• Reduced withdrawal rates, especially at level 4
• Improved progression rates through all levels
• Improved percentage of students gaining 1sts and 2(i)s
• Improved results in internal/national student surveys
• Evidence base of student engagement

Degree Classifications 2011-12

“Statistical First Release 183 – Student Enrolments and Qualifications” published by HESA on 10-1-13 provides early information on student enrolments and ion particular student attainment last year.


Of those gaining a classified first degree, the proportion who obtained a first or upper second has shown a steady increase from 61% in 2007/08 to 66% in 2011/12.

67% of first degrees undertaken through full-time study in 2011/12 achieved first or upper second classifications compared to 53% of those undertaken through part-time study.

Staffordshire University manages to award about 55% of “good degrees” in 2011-12, which is an increase on the previous year, but still significantly behind the national average and competitors.

Clearly, this does have an impact on league tables, where it is used in the “value added” calculation for example in the Guardian. Ultimately it could have an impact on recruitment – where would you choose to go – the university with the highest or lowest probability of getting a 1st or 2(i)?

BME Attainment Gap

An article in the Higher, entitled “Mind, don’t dismiss, the BME attainment gap” refers to the difference in attainment by different groups of students.

Some really frightening stats here:

 “Figures released this week by the Equality Challenge Unit show that 69.5 per cent of UK-domiciled white students achieved a first or a 2:1 in 2010-11, compared with 51.1 per cent of BME students.

The gap was even wider for black students, with only 40.3 per cent scoring a first or a 2:1, according to Equality in Higher Education: Statistical Report 2012, published on 20 November.”

Worryingly, this is reflected across many UK HEIs, and I know that the stats for Staffordshire University show similarly worrying trends.

I think it’s time to identify what we can do to tackle this.