Addressing inequalities experienced by BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) students

What is the issue?

Although proportionately greater numbers of BAME students enter Higher Education (HE), there are significant gaps in attainment between ethnic groups across the sector.

In Art and Design HE there is a 33% gap between the proportion of Black British African and Black British Caribbean students qualifying with a 1st or 2:1 when compared with their White counterparts (Finnegan and Richards, 2016).

‘Art education theorists have … described art education as Eurocentric, racist and imperialist and have called for curriculum reform and social change.’

 (Hatton, 2015:3)

‘The diminishment of “social justice” in many university strategic plans by the enlargement of ‘internationalization’ agendas is testimony to the dissonance that exists between the principles of open access and the realities of institutional privilege.’

 (Shilliam, 2014)

What can be done?

There are a number of ways in which we can address these inequalities.

In the curriculum

‘What is glaringly missing in the institutions of art and art teaching is a mainstream history that recognises how the world of Asian, African Caribbean and African artists has contributed to that history.’

 (Appignanesi, 2010)

‘Many curricula are designed and constructed in accordance with the social and cultural backgrounds of academics, and often drawing on their experience of HE in a context that differs in important ways from that of today… efforts to disrupt this pattern are underway though nascent.’

 (HEFCE, 2015)

  • Create more diverse reading lists and key visual references;
  • See a diverse curriculum as integral to all students learning, not as an optional add-on for BAME students.
  • Engage Student Union BAME liberation groups to explore opportunities for co-creating curricula.

In the studio

‘Where securing access to tutors is left to students, it is likely that under-represented groups will be disadvantaged.’

 (Stevenson, 2012b, in HEFCE, 2015:35)

  • Ensure that all students have equal access to tutors without having to identify as needing help.

In assessment and feedback

Frequent meaningful formative assessment benefits all students BUT it benefits lower achieving students more than higher achieving students. This makes it a valuable tool for addressing differences in attainment. 

In staffing

  • Where the course team is not reflective of the ethnic diversity of the student body, efforts can be made to attract a more ethnically diverse staff, for example by advertising positions on forums aimed at addressing ethnic diversity in the creative industries, e.g
  • Guest speakers and industry professionals from ‘non-white’ backgrounds can be selected as short-term measures to address a lack of ethnic diversity.

© Matthew Tizzard

Further reading:

Appignanesi, R. (ed.) (2010) Beyond Cultural Diversity: the case for creativity London: Third Text

Dixon-Smith, S. (2017) Co-researching Beyond the Category: a thematic analysis of a student-led focus group study into BME student experiences at the University for the Creative Arts Farnham: UCA

Finnigan, T. and Richards, A. (2016) Retention and Attainment in the Disciplines: Art and Design HEA

Hatton, K. (2015) Towards an Inclusive Arts Education London: IOE Press
HEFCE (2015) Causes of Differences in Student Outcomes HEFCE

Shilliam, R. (2014) ‘Black Academia in Britain’ (accessed 17.07.18)

Stevenson, J. (2012) ‘An exploration of the link between minority ethnic and white students’ degree attainment and view of their future “possible selves”’ in Higher Education Studies 2:4, pp.103-113

For more information on ongoing initiatives in these areas at UCA, please see the Creative Education Network webpage

See also: