The Black Attainment Gap - putting race back on the agenda

31 out of 1000 signatures


Lead Officers: Amatey Doku, Vice President Higher Education 2017/19


Over the years, NUS Black Students Campaign has faced a continual battle to make sure race is kept on the agenda. In June 2011, we published ground-breaking Race for Equality research and three years later published the Race Matters report. #LiberateMyDegree was launched in 2016 with the aim to empower student reps from academic and liberation groups with the tools to transform education so that it is more representative of the diverse student body, as well as amplifying local campaigns and initiatives to decolonise education on a national level. Then in 2018, we set up an investigation into the Black Attainment Gap with Universities UK (UUK) to explore the disparities and what actions institutions could take to eliminate them.


What we did

Led by Baroness Valerie Amos, Director of SOAS, and Amatey Doku, Vice President for Higher Education 2017/2019, UUK and NUS worked with universities and students from June 2018 to tackle the disparity between the proportion of ‘top degrees’ (first or a 2:1 degree) achieved by white students and students of colour. Publishing the #ClosingtheGap report, the campaign outlined how universities must demonstrate their commitment to university-wide change as they seek to eliminate the Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) student attainment gap in UK higher education.


In 2019, a 26 percent black attainment gap still existed so NUS’ Black Students campaign launched a survey, alongside Universities UK to understand and gain valuable insight into the black student experience.


What we achieved

The campaign brought to the fore the issues preventing students of colour from getting into and getting on in education and fed into the independent review of post-18 education, along with our Poverty Commission and Education on the Edge campaigns.

By working with UUK we achieved an increased focus on the challenges facing Black* students across the higher education sector, with a clear set of actions identified for universities and colleges to follow.

Our research provided insightful results that informed campaign activity and provided a baseline for future assessments. 77.1% of white students received a first or 2:1 compared with 61.7% of Black students in England in 2019, with 7.8% of Black leavers unemployed six months after qualifying compared with 4.3% of white leavers. Six months after qualifying, 61.2% white leavers were in full-time work compared with 54.8% of Black leavers. Research completed by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) showed that students of colour don’t go to the same universities in the same numbers, do have different choices, do attain lower grades, are more likely to drop out, and don’t earn as much afterward.


What we’re doing now / next…

The NUS Officer Executive 2020/22 has placed addressing the black attainment gap at the centre of national campaigning with the launch of #DecoloniseEducation – a campaign that aims to dismantle the structures that have led to racism, colonialism and imperialism in our educational settings and create new structures. Identified as one of only 2 national campaigns in the 2020/22 Plan for Action, this campaign will work across students’ unions to develop local networks during 2020/21 that centre and empower Black people within their educational communities. We believe it is critical that the movement is decentralised and led by each community within it working with their local institutions to recognise decolonisation as an understood and preferred response to racism. The NUS Black Student Campaign Network has been set up as a space for student campaigners to share advice, resources and experience relating to Black liberation campaigning.


Find out more about #DecoloniseEducation
(*Black is an inclusive term NUS uses to denote people of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean heritage).


This campaign is closed but you can still support NUS’ work

If you would like to show your support for our work on this, similar and/or other issues, just sign up. Provide your name and email address and tell us what you’d like to be kept informed about and we’ll be in touch. We’ll let you know when things are happening and how you can help. Supporting us can involve as little as signing a petition, liking something on social or sharing links to our website with your friends. Please read our privacy statement so you know how your data will be used.