Overcoming barriers to achievement

Dr Line Nyhagen and Dr James Esson
Social Sciences and Humanities

Students from black, Asian and other minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are consistently less likely than white students to graduate with a 2:1 or First Class degree.

This degree awarding gap, also known as the attainment gap, persists when entry-level qualifications are accounted for.

This is true across UK higher education.

Dr Nyhagen and Dr Esson convened a team of student researchers to investigate the undergraduate experience at Loughborough – both in and outside the classroom.

Based on long-standing internationally recognised research on different forms of inequality, this ground-breaking study responded to calls for an in-depth, qualitative analysis of the factors underpinning the BAME degree awarding gap.

The final report, Experiences in the Classroom and Beyond: The Role of Race and Ethnicity (2018), highlighted a range of factors that impact students from different ethnic backgrounds. These include the normalisation of racialised and ethnic segregation, a lack of BAME role models among staff, unconscious bias, and discrimination both on campus and in the town.

Since its launch, the report’s recommendations have had broad and lasting impact via a range of administrative committees, the Careers Network, Students’ Union, and Student Services.

It has driven several positive changes implemented in 2019-20, including the University-wide introduction of anonymous marking practices, the move to increase BAME representation among staff, a curriculum review to enhance EDI, and compulsory Unconscious Bias training.

The research has had significant impact beyond Loughborough. Dr Esson has used insights from it to explore and influence how professional societies – such as the Royal Geographical Society and Institute of British Geographers – engage with BAME staff and students.