“EQUALITY IS NOT AN OPTIONAL EXTRA” – University Alliance comment on UUK BAME Attainment Report

University Alliance has commented on today’s publication of the joint Universities UK and NUS report – Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student attainment at UK universities: #ClosingtheGap”


University Alliance Chief Executive Vanessa Wilson said:

“Racial discrimination is one of society’s greatest ills. Equality, inclusion and diversity are simply not optional extras. They are integral to every single university’s values, mission and ethos. We must all ask ourselves if not now, then when; and if not in higher education, then where?

“We cannot tackle the attainment gap without addressing other ingrained, institutionalised issues – an overwhelmingly white academic leadership; pay inequalities; pedagogy and curriculum; and day-to-day discrimination. No university should object to increased scrutiny from the public, government or regulator.

“We need to be braver in driving through long-term strategic, cultural and organisational change, from the leadership down. We must move away from a deficit model where the attainment gap is put down on individual students lacking skills or aptitude, rather than structural issues within institutions.

“We must not treat minority ethnic students as a homogenous group. People have multiple identities which all intersect .This is not a numbers game. It is about reality for individuals at university and beyond. Racial discrimination manifest itself in everyday situations, processes and behaviours, whether overt or unconscious.

“University Alliance welcomes the report’s call for action and are pleased a number of members are held up as leading lights – Kingston, Herts, Brighton, UWE Bristol and Portsmouth. I am looking forward to working closely on this agenda with University Alliance members, Universities UK, NUS and organisations in and outside higher education.”



The report is based on contributions from 99 universities and student unions and six regional roundtable evidence sessions with 160 attendees on how the attainment gap should be tackled.

It identified five steps for universities to improve BAME student outcomes:

  1. Providing strong leadership: University leaders and senior managers need to demonstrate a commitment to removing the BAME attainment gap and lead by example. UUK and NUS have created a checklist for university leaders to draw upon when considering how to address their institution’s attainment gap.
  2. Having conversations about race and changing cultures: Universities and students need to create more opportunities to talk directly about race, racism and the attainment gap and identify what students think is causing it. A change in culture is needed alongside a clear institutional message that issues of race will be dealt with as part of wider, strategic, organisational practice. Not as an ‘add on’.
  3. Developing racially diverse and inclusive environments: University leadership teams are not representative of the student body and some curriculums do not reflect minority groups’ experiences. A greater focus is needed from universities, working with their students, on ensuring that BAME students have a good sense of belonging at their university, while institutions need an understanding of how a poor sense of belonging might be contributing to low levels of engagement, including with curriculums, and progression to postgraduate study, embedding best practice.
  4. Getting the evidence and analysing the data on the attainment gap: Universities need to take a more scientific approach to tackling the attainment gap – gathering and scrutinising data in a far more comprehensive way than they may currently be doing, to inform discussions between university leaders, academics and students.
  5. Understanding what works: Universities can collectively work to address gaps in the evidence base by using applied research to ensure evidence on ‘what works’ is high quality, and share evidence of what works and what doesn’t. As a first step, UUK is creating a case study library.

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