FOREWORD BY BARONESS VALERIE AMOS, DIRECTOR, SOAS UNIVERSITY OF LONDON
When the extent of the BAME attainment gap in universities was brought to my attention, I was shocked, because universities should be places where opportunity and aspiration come together.
Of course I knew that, given its extent in society, discrimination would exist in our universities. What I was not prepared for was the patchy approach to action to bring about change. Some universities have been slow in recognising the scale of the challenge and in committing to making the changes required.
Others have made significant progress in narrowing the gap. We face significant challenges in terms of representation, pedagogy, curriculum reform and student experience. BAME students do not do as well at university compared with their White counterparts – the latest statistics show a 13% attainment gap. BAME staff are poorly represented in both senior academic and university leadership roles: of 19,000 people employed as professors in the UK, only 400 are BAME women. In a typical gathering of 100 professors, 90 would be white and there would be just two BAME women.
Why is this happening? In Britain, we are proud to have some of the best universities in the world attracting global talent, yet the data in this report shows that even when BAME students overcome the hurdles that prevent them getting to university in the first place, they do not have an equal chance at succeeding.
We are not operating a level playing field. This is why I was pleased to be asked to lead on this project for Universities UK (UUK), working with Amatey Doku, Vice-President for Higher Education from the National Union of Students. We started a nationwide conversation about the BAME attainment gap and how to address it.
The report shows how structural inequality within universities has a profound effect on students’ ability to achieve. My thanks go to the students who participated in our evidence sessions and helped us to understand the pervasive and negative impact of discrimination on the student experience and their ability to achieve, and also to the university leaders, academics and university administrators who shared their experiences and perspectives.