further & higher education

Closing the Attainment Gap for BAME Students Across Higher Education

further & higher education

08:45 - 16:20

Thursday 28 November 2019

Central London

Early Bird Discount Offer

10% off all advertised rates for a limited time only. Discount available to public / voluntary organisations only.


This Forum will provide attendees with the opportunity to discuss effective methods for closing the attainment gap for BAME students across the higher education sector. Participants will hear about the latest guidance on ensuring that universities are improving the experience for BAME students. In addition to this, best practice case studies will share innovative methods of closing the attainment gap for BAME students through the creation of inclusive learning environments and tailored support programmes. 


This Forum is specifically designed for the Higher Education sector. Typical job titles include:

  • Pro-Vice-Chancellors
  • Associate Deans 
  • Equality and Diversity Officers 
  • Retention Managers 
  • Heads of Student Engagement and Retention 
  • Heads of Student Admissions and Success
  • Department Heads 
  • Academic Support Officers 
  • Access Managers 
  • Widening Participation Managers 
  • Senior Lecturers 
  • Heads of Department

The forum is also open to the Private and Voluntary Sector to encourage debate.

Key Speakers Confirmed:
  • Amy Norton, Equality and Diversity Manager, Office for Students
  • Fope Olaleye, Black Students Officer, National Union of Students (NUS)
  • Aloma Onyemah, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sheffield Hallam University
  • Deborah Husbands, Senior Lecturer, University of Westminster
View the agenda and additional speakers


Registration, Refreshments, and Networking


Chair's Welcome Address

Deborah Husbands, Senior Lecturer, University of Westminster (CONFIRMED)


Morning Keynote: Working to Close the BAME Attainment Gap Across Higher Education – The Regulator’s Perspective

  • Highlighting the key challenges facing the higher education sector in relation to closing the attainment gap for BAME students, including widening participation and tackling non-continuation rates 
  • Exploring how universities should be implementing a programme to support BAME students including additional staff training and raising staff awareness of the attainment gap between BAME and other students 
  • Outlining the importance of ensuring a whole provider approach to improving the experience for BAME students, by embedding a focus on access, success and progression throughout all departments 
  • Sharing guidance on creating and maintaining an Access and Participation Plan in line with the OfS regulatory advice published in February 2019

Amy Norton, Equality and Diversity Manager, Office for Students (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Understanding the Problem- Exploring the Attainment Gap for BAME Students

  • Discussing the findings from the Black, Asian and minority ethnic student attainment at UK universities: #ClosingtheGap report published in May 2019
  • Identifying the key aims of this report, including explaining what the attainment gap looks like within the UK and a summary of the findings from the call for evidence 
  • Outlining the five key areas for improvement from this report; providing strong leadership, having conversations about race and culture, developing racially diverse and inclusive environment, analysing data related to the attainment gap and understanding what works 
  • Highlighting the next steps for the higher education sector in relation to BAME students attainment including creating awareness for the problem and establishing better support networks for these students
  • Understanding how the progress of the sector will be evaluated towards the end of 2020 to ensure that adequate steps are being taken to combat the issues around race, ethnicity and attainment

Aloma Onyemah, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Sheffield Hallam University (CONFIRMED) 


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Implementing Active Collaborative Learning to Improve Learning Outcomes and Reduce the BAME Attainment Gap

Hear how Nottingham Trent University aimed to reduce disparities between how well different groups of students performed through a more collaborative approach to teaching. The university will outline how they implemented the Scale-Up programme and share key guidance on how a Scale-Up style programme could be implemented within your own university 


  • Invested over £860,000 to create 12 bespoke Scale-Up rooms which are used to encourage engagement and collaboration within the learning environment whilst promoting problem-solving within the classroom
  • Reduced the attainment gap for BAME students by 4.2%
  • Used in 249 modules with nearly half the student body having experience of at least one SCALE-UP module
  • Attendance in Scale-Up modules up 13% compared to non Scale-Up modules
  • Eliminated the non-continuation gap for students from lower socio-economic groups

Winner of the Guardian’s University Awards Ideas Bank 2019

Jane McNeil, Executive Dean of Learning and Teaching at Nottingham Trent University and Project Lead for SCALE-UP (invited)


Case Study: Providing Effective Guidance and Coaching for BAME Students

This session will look at the Equity Student Programme at the University of the West of England, this project aims to provide BAME students with the skills and training needed to succeed after university.

Discover how UWE offer one-to-one mentoring, workshops, group coaching and networking events for BAME students that will provide these students with the skills needed to succeed in an increasingly competitive job market.

Highlighting how this project helped students build their confidence through identity coaching in a safe and supportive environment. Learn about the effectiveness of this project and how it has been extended to cover 4 faculties within the university. 

Suzanne Carrie, Head of Student Inclusivity, University of the West of England (invited)


Case Study: Utilising Student Ambassadors to Encourage an Inclusive Environment for BAME Students

Hear how the University of Huddersfield implemented an ambassador scheme specifically designed to create a sense of belonging and identity for BAME students.

This scheme was designed with the intention of creating better representation for these students by placing an ambassador within all teaching schools to highlight some of the existing problems within the university, such as mispronunciations of nontraditional names by academics.

This session will discuss the success of the scheme and outline how something similar can be implemented within your own university


  • Learn how the Ambassador Programme contributed towards the reduction of the BAME attainment gap from 18.6% in 2014/15 to 13.7% in 2017/18

Professor Jane Owen Lynch, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, University of Huddersfield (invited) 


Questions and Answers Session


Lunch and Networking


Afternoon Keynote: Listening to the BAME Student Voice to Effectively Represent All Students

  • Exploring the work that the NUS is doing to represent BAME students through the NUS Black Students Campaign
  • Understanding how universities should approach decolonising the curriculum to ensure equal representation for all students 
  • Examining the impact of the Black, Asian and minority ethnic student attainment at UK universities: #ClosingtheGap report including encouraging students to have open, meaningful conversations about race and ethnicity
  • Highlighting the importance of students union BAME representative and how universities should engage with these representatives to create a whole university approach to closing the attainment gap 
  • Outlining the importance of listening to the student experience and how to encourage students and staff to have conversations about race 

Fope Olaleye, Black Students Officer, National Union of Students (NUS) (CONFIRMED)


Special Keynote: Reducing the BAME Attainment Gap Through Focusing on Access, Retention, Success and Progression

  • Exploring the key findings from the 2019 report Understanding and overcoming the challenges of targeting students from under-represented and disadvantaged ethnic backgrounds, including universities needing to focus more on increasing retention and success rather than just access
  • Highlighting how higher education institutions should be taking a multi-pronged approach to closing the attainment gap by focusing on access, success, and progression 
  • Outlining the key recommendations made in the aforementioned report, including contextualising data related to BAME attainment and making this available to students as well as accompanying this with a clear action plan 
  • Understanding the importance that retention rates play in BAME student attainment, including black students being 50% more likely to discontinue their degree compared to their white or Asian peers 


Questions and Answers Session


Refreshments and Networking


Case Study: Creating an Inclusive Curriculum to Remove Barriers to Success

Hear how Kingston University created an Inclusive Curriculum framework to deliver a holistic approach to building inclusivity into all parts of university teaching and learning.

This framework includes a collection of 6 prompts which act as a set of guidelines for course teams and module leaders to ensure that curriculum and assessment are inclusive throughout.


  • Nursing modules consulting students about uniforms to ensure they met both safety and religious needs
  • The implementation of an institutional KPI to measure the BME attainment gap more closely
  • This work led to the creation of an Achievement Plan designed to take more concrete steps on how the University plans to reduce the BAME attainment gap going forward

Isabella Kpobie-Mensah, Equalities and Charter Manager, Kingston University (invited)


Case Study: Implementing a Successful Whole-University Approach to Improving Attainment

The session will analyse the work of the ‘Close the Gap’ project run by UCL which will aim to address the attainment gap for BAME students. Hear how this project aims to close the attainment gap by creating an inclusive curriculum framework that aims to support staff to embed inclusivity into all aspects of teaching and learning. 

Discussing how UCL has implemented BME attainment faculty leads to implement improvements within each of the teaching schools. Understand how these representatives are best placed to support staff and disseminate relevant good practice to encourage inclusion. 

Paulette Williams, Head of Student Success Projects and Co-Lead BME Attainment Project, UCL (CONFIRMED)


Panel Discussion: Understanding the BAME Student Experience and Implementing Effective Measures to Improve Outcomes

  • Exploring the importance of having a BAME student representative to ensure that their views are represented in the wider student population 
  • Discussing how universities can engage with student unions to provide support to BAME students 
  • Highlighting the most effective ways to collaborate with BAME students to gain an insight into their experiences in order to tailor student services to their needs 
  • Outlining key methods of engaging BAME students in activities that promote work experience or networking with experienced individuals to ensure they are prepared for post-university 

Amna Atteq, President, Aston University (invited)

Mohamed Salhi, Vice President of Education, Kings College London Student Union (CONFIRMED)

Jason Palmer, Liberation, Equality & Access Officer, University of Bristol Student University (CONFIRMED)


Questions and Answer Session


Chair's Closing Remarks

The number of BAME students entering higher education has increased by 50% since 2007. However, the attainment gap between black, Asian and minority ethnic people (BAME) students and their counterparts continues to be too wide with only 53% of BAME students graduating with a first class or 2:1 degree in comparison to 78% of white students.

In order to tackle this growing problem, NUS and Universities UK launched a nationwide inquiry to discover the extent of the problem within the UK’s higher education sector. This report, published in May 2019, was entitled Black, Asian and minority ethnic student attainment at UK universities: #ClosingtheGap and set out five key steps that universities should be taking to improve the BAME student experience and close the attainment gap. These five key steps include the following;

  • Providing Strong Leadership
  • Having conversations about race and changing cultures
  • Developing racially diverse and inclusive higher education environments
  • Obtaining evidence and analysing data on the attainment gap
  • Understanding what works when it comes to improving BAME student attainment and experience 

The Office for Students has also set out a target for eliminating the attainment gap for BAME students by 2024/2025. This ambitious target will ensure that universities are taking urgent action to tackle the differences in degree outcomes for white and black students, although many of the barriers to equality are deeply entrenched within the university experience. Universities should also be focussing on ensuring all parts of the university life foster equality between students, including decolonising the curriculum and understanding religious needs. 

It is imperative that universities are taking vital steps towards providing an inclusive and equal environment for all students. Higher education institutions can play a key role in reducing the extensive inequalities that exist within society and without taking bold steps to reduce these systemic inequalities, BAME students will not be able to reach their full potential. 

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