Action research tackling the degree attainment gap for minoritised students
Improving outcomes for Sheffield Hallam's Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students and building organisational capacity to support their success.
The Higher Education Funding Council for England has described the BME attainment gap as a persistent and systemic issue for the sector. Improving outcomes for our BME students and building organisational capacity to support BME success is of paramount importance.
Professor Jacqueline Stevenson, SIoE's head of research, is leading a Hallam-wide initiative to tackle this priority. Each academic department in the university has implemented one or more projects seeking to contribute to an institution-wide reduction in the BME-white attainment gap. Projects draw on departmental priorities within an action research framework - building on hypotheses being tested out through practical interventions. In 2017/18 these interventions include, amongst others, academic writing and literacy support, work placement initiatives, steps towards 'decolonising' the curriculum, mentoring schemes, awareness-raising, BME role models, as well as schemes to attract and recruit more BME students to subject areas where they are currently poorly represented. In our work we recognise that BME is a reductionist term and are working to ensure interventions are focused where possible on different ethnic groups according to needs.
Additional, discrete research studies linked to the project include explorations of why only small numbers of BME students choose to proceed to postgraduate research degrees (Rachel Handforth), reasons why the attainment gap is more pronounced in some academic disciplines than others (Jess Whitby), Muslim staff and students' experience of faith and place on campus (Sehrish Tahir), and support for students arriving via BTEC qualification routes (Nick Marshall).
The overarching project is being evaluated by SIoE's Centre for Development and Research in Education under Professor Stevenson's direction. An evaluation report describing progress in 2017/18 is due for publication in September 2018.
Read Dr Iain Garner's blog Stephen Lawrence and Closing the Black & Minority Ethnic degree attainment gap.