The University should adopt and implement a strategy to close the BAME awarding gaps

Passed: November 2019 (19th)

What do you want? / Why do you want it?

The BAME awarding gap describes the result of structural barriers which prevent some student communities from achieving their full potential in education. This is a change in the commonly used term ‘BAME attainment gap’. Sheffield Hallam University have highlighted that the term ‘attainment gap’ has connotations of a lack of attainment of students, unfairly placing the onus on the student to achieve, whereas the focus should be on universities removing the structural barriers and unconscious biases so students are awarded degrees reflective of their merit.

National trends show that this awarding gaps existing across the HE sector. The statistics for the University of Leeds are as follows:

  • BAME: 12.7% less 1sts and 2:1’s than white students

  • Black students: 25.9%

  • Polar 1 (neighbourhoods with lowest university participation rates): 11.8% less than Polar 5 students

  • Mature students: 12.1% less than young students

  • Disabled students: 2.8% less than students with no disability.

What are the underlying issues which contribute to the awarding gaps?

We are still learning about what the contributing factors are, but these are a combination of structural issues and how this is experienced by students. Recent LUU research into student experience, identified the following issues:

  • Inadequacy of mental health support services. One student said: ‘the biggest limiting factor was being able to ask for help, and getting help.’

  • Lack of culturally competent counsellors / BAME counsellors

  • Curriculum content and pedagogical methods were barriers to their success.

  • Feeling isolated but hyper visible in the classroom

  • Not always connecting with the Eurocentric pedagogies and curriculum content

  • The student mental health crisis.

  • Hidden course costs

Our LUU research into the BAME student experience recommends changes in the following areas.

  1. Student support

    1. Recognising that BAME students may not benefit from seeing White counsellors or personal tutors who are not culturally competent, as significant portions of the support time is spent explaining one's orientation and how that impacts on one’s mental health.

  2. Recruitment practices

    1. Auditing the levels of BAME (academic) staff in the university and reviewing recruitment processes.

  3. Sector Standards

    1. A public acknowledgement of the BAME awarding gap at the University of Leeds and a commitment to lessening this gap in the next five-year strategy phase.

    2. Implementing KPIs around the awarding gap will serve to hold the University of Leeds accountable.

    3. Applying to the Race Equality Charter or an equivalent organisation.

Expires: November 2022 (19th)

Submitted By: Abiha Khan

Officer: Education / Equality & Diversity / International

Area of Work: Access to Education


December 2021: The University has been doing several pieces of work around this, along with decolonisation more broadly, in the last year, which has culminated in a paper that outlines a clear policy on this. A strategy is being put in place and University staff have been presenting a paper on this to the relevant teams and boards, meaning this policy has moved into an operational phase.

June 2020: Unfortunately there are no major updates to this work over the summer as a result of lots of LUU staff being furloughed (ongoing), as well as the LUU building and campus being closed. As staff return to work and the new Officer team settle into their roles this will be picked up again.

April 2020: This, along with decolonisation, will be a key campaign for the newStudent Exec and the new LibCo Team.

February 2020: February event took place. Education Officer Abiha hosted a panel event with sector experts on the awarding gap.

December 2019: 'Gap' amended to 'Gaps' - There are different levels of gaps across Black, Asian, and ethnic minority students so ‘BAME Awarding Gaps’ more accurately covers what is going on.

  • Big event being planned for February - deferred from November.

November 2019: New Policy