Closing the Degree Awarding Gap

What the Degree Awarding Gap (also known as the Attainment Gap) is and what Goldsmiths is doing to address it.

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The degree awarding gap (also known as the attainment gap) is the difference between white students and Black and minority ethnic (BME) students being awarded a 1st or 2.1-degree classification.

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 and minority ethnic students.

The Degree Awarding Gap at Goldsmiths

Reflective of the broader sector, Goldsmiths is no exception to the degree awarding gaps by ethnicity. Typically, as seen above, the data is amalgamated into one ‘BME’ category, however this can be very misleading, as it incorrectly implies racial homogeneity between racially minoritised groups of different backgrounds – making up almost 50% of our student body. For us to close the awarding gap, we must disaggregate this data and examine the disparities by ethnic group.

The breakdown of the degree awarding gap by ethnicity 2017/18:

90% of white student at Goldsmiths College obtain a 1st or 2.1 degree classification, by contrast a negative degree awarding gap exists for all other ethnicities:

  • Black Students: 25% gap
  • Asian Students: 22% gap
  • Other (including mixed): 7% gap
Graph showing figures listed in the text of the page
Figure 1 taken from Insider-Outsider (2019)

Work being done to tackle this

In 2019 the Racial Justice Goldsmiths staff team was appointed, who collectively are working to advance racial justice, in their wide portfolio of work closing the degree awarding gap is a key priority.

This work will be undertaken with the support of Planning and Student Experience to establish the nature of the gap, such as:

  • Where it is most and least wide
  • To establish what specific plans, actions or initiatives currently exist to narrow it
  • Identify ways to close it

This work follows the publication of the Insider-Outsider report, which provides a detailed insight into how institutional racism can play a role in affecting degree outcomes at Goldsmiths. Building on this, the Racial Justice Audit will look further into the causes of the attainment gap, as well as looking more holistically into the experiences of staff of colour and how this relates.

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 that were included in the report: our commitment to publishing annual data on the attainment gap (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 the 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)