The degree awarding gap: What do we want? Elimination. When do we want it? Now.

14 May 2024, 5:00 pm–5:55 pm

Talk by Angela Jackman on Tuesday 14th May 2024- 5pm followed by a Reception at 6pm.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Dr Alejandro Bolaños García-Escribano


Executive Suite 103
Roberts Building
Torrington Place

This talk addresses the long-standing issue of the degree awarding gap, understood as the disparity in the numbers of Black and minority ethnic graduates who are awarded first class or 2.1 degrees in contrast to their white counterparts, even where there is parity of academic ability at the point of entering higher education. This perennial awarding gap has hugely detrimental implications for the affected students’ careers and the underrepresentation of Black and minority ethnic UK academics in higher education.

Key stakeholders, including AdvanceHE (formerly Higher Education Academy) and the Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO), have engaged in initiatives designed to address the gap. One finding in a 2023 TASO report (cdn.taso.org.uk) is that across the sector, there is awareness of the scale of the challenge and the need to address the gap, but a lack of confidence and feelings of being overwhelmed. Higher education institutions have implemented plans of actions and have established initiatives such as UCL’s BAME Awarding Gap Project, in conjunction with its Access and Participation Plan (https://www.ucl.ac.uk/widening-participation/about-us/ucl-access-and-participation-plan). More recently, AdvanceHE (advance-he.ac.uk) has launched a new Theories of Change initiative with TASO and seven universities to make concerted interventions for closing the gap. 

This talk will explore the reasons for the awarding gap, evaluate steps taken by the higher education sector to address it, and consider what more can be done to ensure that students of colour leave higher education on a more level playing field with their white peers. As a case in point, the speaker will discuss her active involvement in City, University of London’s Network for Black and Minority Ethnic Staff as well as her experience chairing its subcommittee on student attainment. This initiative proved pivotal in taking forward City’s initial response to the perennial awarding gap. In 2020, for instance, the student attainment subcommittee set out demands that included requesting proactive and strategic steps to start reversing the awarding gap and thus increasing employability prospects for students of colour.

Bio note:
Angela graduated from Balliol College, Oxford University with a BA (Hons) in Law. She was appointed Honorary KC in March 2021 and joined Irwin Mitchell as a partner in the Public Law and Human Rights Department in September 2021 after 13 years at Hackney Community Law Centre followed by 20 years in private practice. She joined The City Law School (City) in September 2015 as a part-time Senior Lecturer/CPD Consultant whilst maintaining her private practice, and became a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in 2018. Angela's areas of specialism are Mental Capacity, Education Law and Public Law. She is cited as a leader in these three fields in Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners 2024. Angela is also an Accredited Practitioner under the Law Society's Mental Capacity (Welfare) Accreditation Scheme and regularly delivers national training on behalf of the Law Society to practitioners. Among her many roles, she is an expert panel member of the Strategic Legal Fund for Vulnerable Migrants, sits on the Law Society’s Human Rights Committee and is an active member of the Diversity and Inclusion Board and Responsible Business Committee at Irwin Mitchell. Angela was given an award for Outstanding Achievement at the Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year Silver Jubilee Awards in 2009. In 2014, she was Highly Commended at the Law Society Excellence Awards in the category for Lawyer of the Year: Private Practice and she won Lawyer of the Year at the 2018 Modern Law Awards. Angela is also a finalist for the imminent 2024 Legal 500 Environmental Social Governance Awards in the category of Diversity, Equality & Inclusion: Champion of the Year (individual).