The Degree Gap: Preserving White Advantage

The Degree Gap: Preserving White Advantage

The Degree Gap: Preserving White Advantage

Historically, the education system in the U.K. was designed for and only benefitted White students. Today, although there have been great leaps made since the beginning of the educational systems in the U.K., large disparities still exist between White students and students of colour. In recent years, universities have been tracking the “disparity in the proportion of white students who were awarded a 1st or 2:1, compared to the proportion of Black and Ethnic Minority students awarded the same degree.” This disparity is referred to as ‘the degree gap’. A report done by Advance Higher Education showed that degree gap will not close until 2086 if it continues at the current rate.

Although the degree gap in the U.K. between Black and White students has been decreasing in recent years, it is not decreasing fast enough. Many have called on universities to do more in order to “dismantle the structural inequality” within universities. Schools in the U.K. need to do more in order to enable students of colour and other disadvantaged students to access resources they need to succeed. If more is not done to close the gap, the status quo of White advantage will continue making life more difficult for already marginalised communities.

The gap pointedly is not because of lack of intelligence on the part of students of colour, but rather the lack of resources and access to support these students receive once they get to higher education. Even when prior attainment is accounted for, there is still a significant and seemingly unexplained attainment gap between White students and students of colour in universities. Baroness Valeri Amons noted that, “even when BAME students overcome the hurdles that prevent them getting to university in the first place, they do not have an equal chance at succeeding. We are not operating a level playing field.”

The largest gaps exist between White students and Black students, and is prolific throughout all U.K. universities. At 96 of the 97 universities and higher education providers, which tracked ethnicity attainment gaps, Black student attainment is considerably lower than White students.

Although some universities are worse than others, all universities need to do more in order to close these gaps. Indeed, many universities have made significant strides in closing, or rather shrinking, the degree gaps. The progress from these universities gives hope that more progress can be made in closing the gap when addressed properly.

Universities UK and the National Union of Students have identified the five most significant steps needed to successfully close the degree gap:

  1. Providing strong leadership
  2. Having conversations about race and changing the culture
  3. Developing racially diverse and inclusive environments
  4. Getting the evidence and analysing the data
  5. Understanding what works

Discussions around race and racism, although often uncomfortable for many, are necessary to highlight and then break down racial stereotypes, microaggressions, and biases that exist on student campuses. With more effort from universities in the U.K. the degree gap can close, and marginalised communities will able to excel in these environments of higher education as their White counterparts are able to do now.

In the meantime, JAN Trust will continue its work speaking out against all forms of racism and empower marginalised minority communities. Our mission aims to connect marginalised communities with the resources they need in order to integrate and excel within their greater U.K. communities. Please see more information on our work on our website and donate to support us.