Addressing the degree attainment gap


Goldsmiths recognises that it has critical issues to address regarding racial justice. Along with other universities, we are working hard to better understand and respond to these issues.

This includes addressing the difference in academic performance between students who identify as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic and their white counterparts. This difference is known as the BAME* attainment gap.

The attainment gap at Goldsmiths

2017-18 data for the sector as a whole shows that 80.9% of white students undertaking a first degree at a UK higher education institution received a “good honours” of a 2.1 or above – compared to 67.7% of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students.

At Goldsmiths 71.7% of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students gained “good honours” compared to 89.6% of White students. However, we know that there are differences in outcome when we look at particular minority ethnic groups.

With close to 50% of Goldsmiths’ total student population identifying as Black, Asian or minority ethnic, a project has been established to address this difference in attainment (sometimes called the ‘award gap’).

Examining the attainment gap and proposing solutions

Dr Nicola Rollock has been appointed Academic Lead to explore the reasons behind the attainment gap at Goldsmiths and identify possible solutions. It is expected that the project will involve an examination of teaching content, pedagogy and staffing as well as seeking to understand the broader context and culture in which teaching is taking place.

Along with colleagues in Goldsmiths Students’ Union, Dr Rollock has been working to develop plans for an institutional-wide audit of how issues of race are understood and enacted across Goldsmiths and the impact of this on racially minoritised students, staff and faculty.  

Dr Rollock will be assisted by a small staff team, who will be recruited before the end of 2019.

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Drawing on student and staff experiences

Dr Rollock has been meeting with students and colleagues to learn from existing practice, understand ongoing challenges and to ultimately help inform the content of the proposed audit. She has also been working to understand issues surrounding the student occupation of Deptford Town Hall.

Working with sector partners

Goldsmiths was among the first signatories to #ClosingtheGap, a joint initiative between Universities UK and the National Union of Students to develop a framework for approaches to address the attainment gap. A number of Goldsmiths staff also attended a one-day conference in London in June 2019 to explore the report’s recommendations further.

Goldsmiths submitted two case studies which were included in the report: our commitment to publishing annual data on the attainment gap, which is outlined below; and Liberate our Library, an initiative to deliver on the Liberate our degrees commitment contained in the Learning, Teaching and Assessment Strategy. We readily acknowledge these are only first steps and that we have much to learn to improve our thinking and practice about race and how we might narrow and ultimately close the award gap.

Informed by data

Goldsmiths publishes annual data on the attainment gap, with this information shared both publicly and with students and staff.

The latest data: BAME statistics paper 30 April 2019 (PDF)

*Use of the term BAME

We sometimes use the term BAME or BME (referring to Black, Asian and minority ethnic) as this mirrors what is used in official classification. However, we recognise that these acronyms are not ideal and we are considering using ‘racially minoritised groups’ which may better capture the experiences of these students.  We are also reflecting on using ‘award gap’ instead of ‘attainment gap’ and these changes will be reflected in our future work.