BME Student Experience Report

Title: 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

Authors: Steve Dixon-Smith
Co-researchers: Adeola Elugbadebo-Solomons, Bethan Dadson, Samuel Ntim Ababio, Kanndiss Riley
Project sponsor: Allan Atlee, Head of the School of Architecture, UCA

Executive Summary


This report documents a project that set out to generate awareness and understanding of the student experience of BME students across the four UCA campuses in order to aid the development of inclusive practices that complement the diversity of the student body. It provides a thematic analysis of focus group data collected and filtered with the assistance of a team of four student co-researchers working under a ‘students as partners’ model of participatory research. The analysis is followed by a series of institution specific recommendations that respond to a recent HEFCE (2015) commissioned report setting out key areas for Higher Education Institutions to address in relation to these issues.


The ethnic diversity of students entering university has increased markedly in recent years. Statistical data shows that ‘Since 2008 the White ethnic group have had the lowest entry rate of all ethnic groups,’ while ‘the Black ethnic group have the largest increase in entry rates over the period’ (Ebdon, 2016). However, attainment and retention rates vary greatly between these groups. In 2013/14 ‘White students (70%) had a greater likelihood of achieving an upper degree than BME students (52%)’(Woodfield, 2015). When Art and Design as a discipline is considered separately, and the category BME is considered as a non-homogeneous group, the figures are even starker, with ‘31% of Black British Carribbean and Black British African students gain[ing] an upper degree in comparison to 64% of White students (Woodfield 2014, pp. 63-4) … an attainment gap of 33%.’ (Finnegan, 2016).

Please download the full report – you will need to save the file to your computer and open in in Adobe Acrobat to hear the audio extracts. The report may take a minute to download as it is 74MB so please be patient!