The Student Success Project is working to ensure that all students have the opportunity to succeed at Brunel University London. One way of measuring student success is by looking at the attainment of ‘good degrees’. An attainment gap is the difference in ‘good degrees’ – a first or 2:1 classification – awarded to different groups of students.
Research by the Higher Education Funding Council England (HEFCE) in 2015 showed that across the UK, Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students are less likely to achieve top degrees compared to white students. This gap persists even once factors such as entry qualifications, socio-economic status and subject area are controlled for.
What are we doing?
Brunel University London, in partnership with the Union of Brunel Students, is committed to removing any barriers to success and supporting students; helping them to achieve their full potential. This will be realised through the development of existing initiatives and structures. The expectation is that our students will benefit from a clear, joined up approach - from pre-entry through to post-graduation support. To measure the success of the project, the Executive Board of the University has made closing the BME attainment gap a University Key Performance Indicator that is monitored annually.
In autumn 2016, a Student Success Project Manager was appointed to lead on the project alongside the Pro Vice Chancellor (Quality Assurance and Enhancement). A project group has been convened with staff and student representation from across the University. A number of opportunities will be available to students to provide feedback to ensure that the student voice is at the heart of the project.
The project going forward will focus on, but not be limited to, four key areas:
Increase awareness of:
- The attainment gap issue.
- The cultural backgrounds of our students in order to understand our student body.
- Review the curriculum from the viewpoint of students to give greater clarity of the purpose of the programme, its teaching and assessment strategies, delivery methods, and coherence within and between levels.
- Review assessment strategies for the programme to ensure that there is coherency; that over-assessment and repeated assessment of the same skill is avoided; that sufficient formative tasks are included; and that the type of assessment is the most appropriatiate.
- Instigate an institutional focus on innovation in sustainable assessment practices.
- Develop “How to be a successful student” resource that helps students understand the expectations and their responsibilities better.
- Build on existing structures to increase meaningful interactions between staff and students, increasing the sense of ‘belonging’.
References and Further Information
Equality Challenge Unit. 2008. Ethnicity, gender and degree attainment: final report.
National Union of Students. 2011. Race for Equality.
Equality Challenge Unit. 2011. Improving the degree attainment of black and minority ethnic students.
Higher Education Funding Council of England. 2015. Differences in degree outcomes.
Equality Challenge Unit - Degree attainment gaps.
Office for Fair Access - OFFA Topic briefing: BME students.
National Union of Students - #LiberateMyDegree
National Union of Students – Why is My Curriculum White?
WonkHE - "It’s time for real action on the BME attainment gap"