The black, minority and ethnic student experience at a small Northern University


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A conference paper presented at the Widening Participation Conference 2012 'Discourse of Inclusion in Higher Education' 24-25 April 2012, UK

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The black, minority and ethnic student experience at a small Northern University

  1. 1. Chantal Davies (University of Chester)
  2. 2. Introduction Background Research Description and Project Rationale Existing Research Methodology Findings Implications
  3. 3. Background Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 (N/B Equality Act 2010) Small body of existing research (Osler, 1999; Connor et al., 2004; Givens et al., 1999; Mai Sims, 2007; Jessop & Williams, 2009) Higher Education Academy & Equalities Challenge Unit recommendations, 2008
  4. 4. Research Description and ProjectRationale Exploration of experiences of BME students within the research site Support and build on existing research Provide an evidential base for University diversity and equality strategies in relation to:  Student achievement;  Retention and progression;  Widening participation, marketing and recruitment;  Student transitions to H.E.;  Curriculum design and development
  5. 5. Existing Research Belonging and otherness (Read et al., 2003) Ethnic minority visibility in university staffing (Connor et al, 2004) The student experience of racism (Givens & Bennett, 2004; Woolf, Cave, Greenhalgh & Dacre, 2008) Curriculum development and content (Bowl, 2001; Givens et al., 1999) Stereotyping (Woolf et al., 2008; Connor et al., 2004; Carter, Fenton & Modood, 1999)
  6. 6. Methodology Multi-layered, qualitative exploration of the experiences of BME students at the research institution Emancipatory and participatory BME researcher/reflexivity Steering Group (Jessop & Williams, 2009) Focus Groups Semi Structured Interviews Sampling:  Purposive sample;  Undergraduate students across the research institution;  Self certification.
  7. 7. Emerging Themes Belonging/Togetherness  Institutional heterogeneity not a driver in choice of university  Objective benefits of ethnic diversity  Transient and long term awareness of ‘white demographic’ Academic Experience  Mainstreaming of ethnic diversity issues  Awkwardness in discussing diversity issues linked to ethnic identity  Detachment from ethnic identity
  8. 8. Emerging Themes Student Experience  Wider student experience (including extra curricula activities, developing friendships, locality etc)  Little impact on wider general experience  Catering issues Differential Treatment  Less favourable treatment due to ethnicity (including racism)  No perception of overt racism (note of caution)  Modification of the behaviour of peers/staff due to ethnicity
  9. 9. Emerging Themes Segregation  Feelings of segregation and differentiation due to targeted provision based on ethnicity  Some objective benefits of targeted provision  Detachment from linking to ethnic identity Early Education  The ‘London’ perspective  The ‘Local’ perspective Employability  Impact on future employability
  10. 10. Some Implications for the StudentExperience and Academic Practice Managing student expectations of ethnic diversity from an institutional perspective particularly in relation to widening participation and marketing strategies Developing academic programmes of study based on inclusive learning and teaching strategies Developing a greater understanding of institutional responsibilities in relation to feelings of differentiation, isolation and segregation Developing and implementing institutional local level strategies for BME student achievement, retention and progression Developing student engagement and transition strategies
  11. 11. References Carter, J., Fenton, S., & Modood, T. (1999). Ethnicity and Employment in Higher Education. London: Policy Studies Institute. Connor, H., Tyers, C., Modood, T,. & Hillage, J,. (2004). A closer look at Higher Education Minority Ethnic Students and Graduates (DFES Research Report RR 552). London: HMSO. Givens, N., Almeida, D., Holden, C., & Taylor, B. (1999). Swimming with the tide: ethnic minority experiences in initial teacher education. Multicultural Teaching, 17(2), 30-36. Givens, N., & Bennett, S. (2004). Tentative Progress in mainly white setting: hearing from trainee teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds. Race Equality Teaching, 39-44. Higher Education Academy, & Equality Challenge Unit. (2008). Ethnicity, Gender and Degree Attainment Project: Final Report. London: Author. Jessop, T., & Williams, A. (2009). Equivocal tales about identity, racism and the curriculum. Teaching in Higher Education, 14(1), 95-106. Mai Sims, J. (2007). Not enough understanding? Student experiences of diversity in UK universities. London: Runnymede Trust. Osler, A. (1999). The Educational Experiences and Career Aspirations of Black and Ethnic Minority Undergraduates. Race Ethnicity and Education, 2(1), 39-58. Woolf, K., Cave, J., Greenhalgh, T., & Dacre, J. (2008). Ethnic stereotypes and the underachievement of UK medical students from ethnic minorities: qualitative study. British Medical Journal. 1220.
  12. 12. Contact Details Chantal Davies (; Telephone: 01244 512303)