University of Herts ‘urgently’ commits to rectifying BAME students grade disparity with white students

The University of Hertfordshire de Havilland Campus. Picture: UoH

The University of Hertfordshire de Havilland Campus. Picture: UoH - Credit: Archant

The University of Hertfordshire’s students with Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are less likely to graduate with higher grades compared to the UK average.

The awarding gap at the Hatfield-based university is 21 per cent, meaning more BAME students do not attain a 2:1 or a 1st, compared to white students. This is higher than the national average of 13 per cent.

UoH’s students union points the finger at the institution and their failure to help every student succeed.

They said in a statement: “We have just over 24,000 students at UH. 13,123 students are BAME, 4,292 of whom are black. Every student deserves to feel like they matter. As your Students’ Union our purpose is to represent all our students.

“We’re here to fight for equality and inclusivity so that our diverse population can thrive together.”

In response, Quintin McKellar, vice-chancellor of UoH, said: “Our vision as a University is that whatever your background, wherever you are from, higher education can be a transformational experience. Racism and intolerance have no place at our University and we want to reassure our community that they are never alone.

“We are committed to eliminating our BAME attainment gap urgently and have many initiatives in place to help us achieve this.”

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Mr McKellar believes that the answer lies in working with the schools at the university with lower attainment gaps, of less than 10 per cent, and creating a similar tailored programme for other disciplines.

He added: “We have BAME advocates, who lead on developing activities for BAME students including workshops and an alumni speaker series. They have changed the conversation at the University around race, racism and white privilege, educating staff and fellow students through sharing lived experiences.

“Our BAME advocates, in collaboration with Widening Access and Student Success and the Schools of Humanities, Education, Law and Business, organise annual BAME careers events. These events provide BAME students with an opportunity to engage with employers, create meaningful contacts and also to learn skills that allow them to stand out in the job market.

“We are working to continue diversifying our curriculum. To support this work, our staff have been provided with curriculum checklists to ensure our teaching content is both inclusive and appropriate.

“Our University has excellent rates of progression to employment overall, and the latest results show that our undergraduate BAME students achieved above a benchmark average for being in employment or further study six months after graduation. However, we recognise there is more to be done and reducing the attainment gap remains a top priority.”

Students are also being urged by the students union to not to be bystanders when it came to issues of race within the UK after the death of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white officer sparked protests.

The SU said: “Our hearts are broken over what’s happening in the US, the result of centuries of racism and oppression. The UK, like the US, has taken too long to translate our ideals into action or change and we still have a long way to go. Being far from campus makes it harder to come together to support each other, but we must try.

“We’re asking all of our students – check in with yourselves, check in with us, check in with your lecturers – and most importantly, check in with each other.

“We’ve seen the videos, the pictures and the stories go viral. Now is the time for us to act, to support our students and to help push for change. We know that sometimes it’s difficult to understand how to make change, how to be that catalyst and create a domino effect.

“We also know that if you’re not educated about the topic in hand, you’re more likely to stay silent. We want to help. We thought it would be beneficial to provide you with a range of links and resources, along with the facts, so you can educate yourself and understand why change is needed.”

Herts SU recommends educating yourself with books like White Fragility by Robin Diangelo, Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge and Natives by Akala.

Akala was set to speak at the Forum in March but this was cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.