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Higher Education Newsletter: April

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BAME Attainment Gap 

Last week, Universities UK and the NUS published a joint report into the attainment gap between BAME and white students

The report, entitled "Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic Student Attainment at UK Universities," states that white students graduating in 2017-18 were 13% more likely to achieve a first or a 2:1 degree than those from a BAME background. Black students were also estimated to be one and a half times more likely to drop out than white students.

The report follows contributions from 99 universities and SUs and six regional roundtable evidence sessions with 160 attendees on how the attainment gap should be tackled. It lists five key steps for universities to adopt in order to improve BAME student outcomes:

  1. Provide strong leadership
  2. Have regular conversations about race and changing cultures
  3. Develop radically diverse and inclusive environments
  4. Get evidence from your Institution and analyse the data on the attainment gap
  5. Understand what works for your Institution

One of the report's key recommendations is that BAME students would benefit from a radically diverse campus environment. For example, elements of curriculums do not always reflect minority groups' experiences. A greater focus is therefore needed, from universities, to work with students on ensuring that BAME students have a good sense of belonging as a poor sense of belonging could result in disengagement with the course.

The report concludes that "a change in culture is needed alongside a clear institutional message that issues of race will be dealt with as part of a wider, strategic, organisational practice, and not as an add on."

Universities UK have asked nearly 140 members to sign up to an online pledge to work with students and use the report's recommendations within their institutions, with progress to be evaluated in 2020. The University of Worcester is one of these 140 and have signed this pledge.

The Office for Students (the regulator for higher education institutions) has set a target for the sector to eliminate the gap in degree outcomes between white and black students by 2024-25.


EU students could face higher fees to study in the UK from 2020

Charging higher fees risks EU students no longer applying to study at universities in England

Although it has been long assumed that EU students would lose access to loans and would pay higher tuition fees post-Brexit, a report raised the concern that the higher fees would soon and fast be imposed on EU students who begin courses after Brexit.

EU citizens starting courses at English universities in 2019 are eligible for student loans and tuition fees as the same level as home English students for the whole of their course. The Department for Education is said to be preparing for higher fees for new EU students for the 2020 intake.

The ongoing uncertainty, as to whether EU students will need to pay higher fees in 2020, restricts student choice and the ability of English universities to recruit EU students. Whatever the eventual fee status of EU students, universities have insisted that they need at least 18 months' notice of any change.

Both Labour and Change UK have said that this change is likely to deter EU students from studying in England, with Change UK's education spokesperson, Ann Coffey, saying "this is another example of Brexit damaging both our public services and our economy." 


NUS National Conference

Delegates at the Conference approved a set of changes intended to transform the 100-year-old organisation and save it from financial collapse

On April 9, over 750 students (including three elected delegates from Worcester) throughout higher and further education institutions across the UK spent a week in Glasgow to debate and decide on key policy issues affecting students.

Last October, NUS informed members that it had a £3.6m shortfall and was facing potential insolvency. The NUS London office was put up for sale, a loan secured, and a round of cost-cutting measures resulted in 54 redundancies and plans to reduce elected officers from 20 to 12.

Student activists campaigned against plans to rid NUS of liberation officers, who represent black, LGBT+, trans, disabled, and female students. Conference approved amendments of the original motion, including one stating that if the NUS was able to afford more officers in the future, full time liberation officers should be restored.

The measures approved by Conference will allow for a simplified governance structure, a reduction in fees charged to members and a "modern approach to campaigning and service delivery."


Opinion pieces of note

EU students, over-education, BME attainment, Cambridge and slavery - WonkHE podcast

As a black student, I know why our grades our worse: universities don't listen to us - Adesewa Esther Adebisi, The Guardian

The Government's plans to cut student fees threaten life-changing research - The Guardian

If universities cut lecturers' pensions, they should brace themselves for more strikes - The Guardian

Five tech trends transforming higher education - Josie Cluer, WonkHE



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