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Taking action in higher education

Focus on underattainment by BME university students

22 January 2008 | last updated: 26 June 2019

UCU has welcomed a report out today which explores possible ways of tackling the underattainment of some ethnic minority students and women in higher education.

But UCU, which prides itself on promoting equality and wider access to higher education, expressed regret that underattainment appears to be persisting among some groups of students.

The report, the final report of the 'Ethnicity, Gender and Degree Attainment Project', by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) endorsed earlier research findings by the former DfES which showed that even after taking account of the majority of contributory factors, being from some minority ethnic groups was still likely to be associated with lower degree attainment. The earlier DfES research also showed that females are more likely to obtain higher degree classification than males, except when it comes to attaining a first.

Today's report concluded that:

  • There is a need to ensure that the valuable information gained from data sources, such as management information systems, are used as a means of reflective institutional analysis and action planning, ideally through impact assessment.
  • Higher education institutions (HEIs) need to implement systems that can evaluate, review and design teaching, learning and assessment activities in light of data on degree attainment variation.

Roger Kline, UCU's head of equality and employment rights, was a member of the steering group which contributed to the report. He said: 'It is disappointing to see that race is still a factor influencing the degree classification attained by some students. More work needs to be done to investigate this and to remedy this failing. UCU welcomes this report and we look forward to engaging with initiatives to tackle the continuing attainment gap.'

View the report here