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BAME Awarding Gap: new staff toolkit

18 May 2020

A new BAME Awarding Gap toolkit aims to support staff to achieve oustanding teaching for all students by focusing: creating an inclusive curriculum; inclusive teaching, learning and assessment; belonging; and creating safe spaces for BAME students.

Students at graduation

A new staff toolkit has been released as part of a three-year project addressing the disparities in outcomes and experience of BAME students at UCL. The new resource is a cornerstone of UCL's commitment to eliminating the university's awarding gap between undergraduate Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) and white students by 2024.

As we plan for remote or socially distanced teaching in Term 1 of the next academic session, engaging every student with their academic community - whether on campus or remote –  should be the norm from the outset of the programme. BAME students are potentially more at risk of losing a sense of belonging if peer interactions are also reduced or removed from their university experience, so creating this engagement in your class should be a priority. 

The Covid-19 pandemic is presenting us with extraordinary unforeseen challenges, but the Education Strategy continues to provide us with the principles on which we can base our response.  Foremost among these is that every student, regardless of their background, experience or stage of learning, should be supported to thrive and make the most of their time at UCL. I welcome the development of the new toolkit and warmly encourage colleagues to use it to inform and enhance their teaching - Prof Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education and Student Affairs).

Four key themes

The toolkit is designed to help staff understand factors associated with the awarding gap, which are broken down into four key themes: inclusive curriculum, inclusive teaching, learning and assessment, belonging and creating safe spaces.

Each section explains why the theme is significant and provides a selection of practical tips, resources and further reading related to that theme. Importantly, BAME student voices, from UCL and the sector, are incorporated into each section of the toolkit to emphasise how the academy’s structure, culture and curriculum impact students’ experiences, feelings and personal development: 

In a lecture there are pictures of scientists on the board. Lecturer asks what is wrong with slide. A student answers all of these scientists are male’. Lecturer says this is the correct answer. Lecturer moves on. Whilst I, the one student of colour was going to say ‘all of these scientists are white - UCL student.
A lot of the content on the courses is extremely Eurocentric which doesn’t make sense to me seeing as there are a wide variety of non-European ideologies and resources to learn from - UCL student.

The toolkit is available as a single PDF, or online as Teaching Toolkits (broken down by theme) on UCL’s Teaching and Learning portal: 

The new resources have been designed to provide staff with a better awareness of what the issues are, some practical tips to get started and ideas on successful strategies we might adopt/adapt from other institutions to apply at UCL.

About the BAME Awarding Gap

Analysis of UCL data shows that there is a statistically significant discrepancy in the rate of good degrees (First or 2:1) awarded to UK Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students compared with UK White students, despite entering UCL with the same high entry qualifications. This phenomenon, more commonly known as the ‘attainment gap’ is not unique to UCL, but is a pervasive and long-standing issue across the sector.  The existence of differential outcomes like the awarding gap suggests we are falling short in our efforts to ensure success for all our students.

Since launching the University’s BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) Attainment Project in 2017, the project team have raised awareness of the gap and established various initiatives, such as UCL’s Inclusive Curriculum Health Check (ICHC) and the recruitment of Faculty Leads (senior academic staff) to drive change at a local level. However, the institution is continually learning from its own efforts and those of the wider sector; the project's next steps are to focus on further supporting departments to find out what local interventions work, and how we can share our learning beyond UCL. 

Download the BAME Awarding Gap toolkit