Notes on:  Arday, J., Branchu, C.,  & Boliver, V. (2021). State of the Art. What Do We Know About Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Participation in UK Higher Education? Social Policy and Society. October 2021 DOI: I: 10.1017/S1474746421000579

Dave Harris

This is a synthesis of evidence in terms of rates of access to, success within, and positive destinations beyond HE; UK universities as exclusionary spaces, especially focusing on curricula 'that centre Whiteness'; the marginalisation of BAME students on mental health. There is a continuing trend to identify BAME students as other.

BAME young people are more likely to participate in HE [even Black British], although they are underrepresented at the most academically selective universities, largely because they do not do as well at GCSE and A-level and are less likely to be offered places even if they are comparably qualified [lots of evidence, largely Boliver]. Since the 2016 White paper, publishing data, rates  of access to higher tariff universities have improved, and now runs at 1 to 1.1 compared to White students 2021.

Completion rates are different, much lower for Black students — 86% compared to 92% for White students. 91% for Asian students, although this conflates Chinese and Indian with lower rates for Pakistani and Bangladeshi. British Muslims seem to be the group least likely to have gained their intended award. The same goes with gaining a good degree, that is a first or 21 — in 2013-14, it was 16% higher for White students than for BAME students, 76% rather than 60%, even after controlling for A-level grades. The latest available data says that BAME categories are still 'much less likely than their White peers to graduate with a good degree… 82% for White group, 77% for those of mixed ethnicity, 70% for Asian students, and 59% for Black students' (2).

The OFS says the task for UK universities is to take active steps to eliminate this '"unexplained gap"', reported by 'almost all institutions'. 'Around 1/3' said they were at an early stage understanding the causes or solutions for this gap. Ethnic inequalities continue in the form of 'disparate graduate outcomes'. 73% of White graduates go on into 'highly skilled employment or further study', 69% of mixed, 68% of Black and 67% of Asian. This might be a result of attending less prestigious UK universities, but even for those who attend Russell Group, there is a similar pattern [not much of a pattern]. BAME students are 'well represented' on postgrad especially doctoral degrees, except for Black students, also particularly unlikely to receive PhD studentships.

The figures suggest that experiences in university spaces should be addressed, especially '"a poor sense of belonging"' (3) [suggested by UniversitiesUK and the NUS]. Meritocratic ideals have been 'proven to increase inequalities (Bourdieu and Passeron, 1977 [for social class of course] ; Bolivar 2004; Dawning, 2015; Bolivar 2018; Reay 2018) [a bit of a generalisation here], while banking systems of education limit the potential for learning to be transformative and also exclude categories of students [reference to Bourdieu and Passeron and Freire] [ also called a 'vertical approach to learning']. Management and monitoring measures do not help [reference this time to Alexander and Arday 2015].

The curriculum is 'dominated by White European canons of scientific and scholarly knowledge' and this 'plays a significant role in BAME student engagement, belonging and marginalisation' BAME students are not afforded 'agency or autonomy in negotiating the canons of knowledge [references here include Bhopal, Andrews 2016, Robert 2016, and Arday 2019! Are any students?] In many cases, the curriculum 'does not reflect their socialisation, worldview, history or lived experience' especially in history which can be 'an obstacle to racial and ethnic diversity', presenting a 'very narrow unconstrained view of society… [omitting]… Britain's persecution of Black people in pursuit of the Empire, relegating Black history to the margins (Andrews 2019)' (4). Such a curriculum also disadvantages White students and does not help them challenge their own worldview, dominant discourses and stereotypes regarding people of colour [references here include Arday 2020, Arday et al. 2020]

'Any body of knowledge solely produced by White scholars cannot reflect a multi-culturally diverse society'. BAME scholars have been ignored and this is resulted in Black people, 'particularly women' presented as oppressed subjects.

[Luckily] there is 'a continuing critical mass of students and academics' calling for decolonisation and diversification at university, and student led campaigns to establish a culturally diverse rather than monolithically White Academy [refs include Andrews 2019, Arday 2019]. Omissions make 'an empirical mistake' by divorcing the history of Europe and the West from its global connections. The lack of reflection of diverse student populations is 'symptomatic of the entrenched institutional racism which still permeates the Academy and society more generally (Dei et al., 2004; Shilliam 2015)'.

We need a 'more inclusive lexicon' that embodies 'global "perspectives, experiences and epistemologies"' [Shay 2016] but people like Joseph–Salisbury say these are absent. Atkinson et al. 2018 find them absent in sociology as well — for example almost 1/4 of undergrad sociology degree programs made no explicit reference 'to the terms race, ethnicity or racism… with little attention to "Whiteness as a race category"'.

It is similar in social policy. If there is decolonising labour, it is done by the few BAME often female staff who also suffer the burden of racial micro-aggressions making them likely to leave the Academy altogether. There is still a lack of scholarship coming from the global South, and little scholarship not written in colonising languages like  French, English, Spanish or Portuguese, or knowledge in science 'beyond Anglo-Saxon institutions'. There needs to be a greater effort to redistribute grants, citation patterns, awards or appointments.

We need to rethink safe spaces and critical pedagogy is especially those that tackle the racial power [there is a quote first from Leonardo and Porter 2010, and then another one, followed by ibid: 139], and a strange bit about 'the productive use of emotions in teaching'. Different teaching and assessment practices might produce the 'large degree classification awarding gap between BAME and White students. [Then an odd bit] 'inclusive methods of assessment have been imagined and evaluated in recognition of the needs of students with disabilities and neuro do the in's (Waterfield and West 2006, Brian and Clegg 2020)'. Most of these involve flexibility in teaching, student choice, peer review self-assessment and other creative modes of assessment, but these have been unevenly practised.

There is a recognition that they assessment is not value free but reflects certain specific values, including traditional assessment, but alternatives are still seen as marginal and staff feel undertrained [referencing Joseph – Salisbury]. There is however 'a growing and subtle resistance' aimed at a more diverse and inclusive University [referencing Shay 2016].

Racism evolves and so cannot be solved with particular policies. It requires strategies to combat it as Gillborn says. The basic question might be to ask whose side we are on teach or act.

Turning to mental health, it is clear that exclusion marginalisation and othering takes a toll but this is often overlooked (Arday  2018) (6) [Grey et al. are cited here too]. BAME are subject to 'discriminatory and stereotypical judgements', and these are sometimes exacerbated by existing mental health care services, 'when healthcare professionals become complicit in sustaining and compounding racism through stereotyping' [no evidence for this]. Memon et al. is one of the sources to justify 'research generally indicates that people from ethnic minorities are less likely than their White British counterparts to have contacted their general practitioner (GP) about mental health issues for fear of further stigmatisation'. There is a paucity of inclusion in health-related research, a discriminatory HE culture [ref to Alexander and Arday 2015], and 'cultural interpretations of mental illness which often stigmatise' [referenced to Arday 2018 -- ].

The growing interest in mental wellness has helped disable negative connotations, but it is still a stigma and so remains difficult for ethnic minorities — the narrative has 'largely been situated within a largely [sic] Eurocentric backdrop' [citing Grey et al.] (7). There are 'contextual discriminatory nuances' which means that mental illness can be encountered 'in a different way' requiring different supports and interventions.

Healthcare researchers need to consider more are culturally specific research that reflects differences experienced by ethnic minority groups and how they regard psychological wellness in order to develop a more positive narrative. Mental health is in important in the 'everyday vernacular of HE discourse' (8), especially with sector benchmarks and consumer expectations, but there is still 'dearth of culturally sensitive interventions' permitting open discussion and this has reduced confidence among BAME individuals. This in turn encourages marginalisation and reduces well-being, although this is still the responsibility of universities for student and staff.

Overall, inequality like this 'contradicts the professed egalitarian values of the Academy'. There is 'institutional and structural racism that continues to permeate the structure' [referenced to Ahmed 2012 and Arday and Mirza 2018]. 'The pace of change remains slow' and often under resourced so universities are complicit in undermining their own interventions.

The murder of George Floyd was another 'seminal moment in race relations history which has brought about a collective moment of reflection resulting in a challenging of Whiteness' (9). BLM brought about collective reflection and a stimulus for renewed commitment and illuminated 'the need for White people to disrupt these racially discriminatory spaces'.

The 'evolving role of White allyship has been integral during this reflective period' [shades of his other paper?], But it has been intermittent and seasonal and this is only helped perpetuate 'racist institutional cultures'. 'It is important to acknowledge that there are individuals that obstinately have no desire to embrace racial equality nor see it as a priority issue (Tate and Bagguley, 2017)', but these are a minority. Racism 'remains largely interwoven in the fabric of universities' but there is 'collective resistance… Hope, unity and solidarity… Concerted collective pressure'. OFS has been pushing universities and there are now new initiatives and some research especially about mental health conditions. There is also the Advance HE Race Equality Charter, which senior stakeholders must consider.