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Equality in education

By Mariya Hussain

Friday 5 December 2014 Student Journalists

Education is for everyone, and entrance to and success at university should be determined by a person’s aptitude and hard work. However, students from Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) backgrounds are often left at a disadvantage in the education system, reports NUS Journalist Mariya Hussain.

An attainment gap between BME students and their white counterparts has been well documented with BME students being less likely to achieve a 2:1 or first. This gap highlights a problem of inequality within our higher education institutes.

Students beginning a degree have all needed to achieve the same grades to be accepted, they have had to undergo the same selection process, and at university undertake the same assessments. So why is it, despite these equalities, the outcomes for BME students remains unequal?

The answer to the question is not one of academic capability, but one of the culture of higher education institutes. A large part of teaching at university, for example, is done through interaction with professors, gaining feedback and support from them. Shockingly, however, in the UK there are fewer than 100 Black professors. This lack of diversity does not reflect the student population of many universities, and creates an environment that students often cannot relate to.

BME students themselves have been expressing their discontent with university cultures that do not reflect the diversity of students through projects such as ‘I, Too, Am Oxford’, ‘I, Too, am King’s’, ‘I, Too, Am Sheffield’ and others from universities up and down the country. The project highlights the prejudices BME students face whilst studying.

It has been argued that universities are not doing enough to change this culture, and promote a fairer and more inclusive one that allows students of all backgrounds to fulfil their potential. Prestigious universities such as Oxford have been criticised for their bias against ethnic minority applicants. However, rather than finding solutions to combat the problem, too many universities have simply tried to provide explanations for it.

We as students must work to ensure our universities are working practically to be inclusive and fair for all. The institutes must reflect and support the entire student body, and the problem of an attainment gap should not be explained away, but rather it should be solved through support and attitudinal change.

Education must exist within a fair and equal system, otherwise the benefits of it for an individual and a society, are greatly hindered.


My name is Mariya Hussain and I am currently in my second year of studying English at King’s College London. Education is something I am very passionate about. I believe everyone should have the opportunity to receive a quality education regardless of race, class, financial means or other causes that can limit a person’s access to education. As a result, I’m very happy to be writing on education!

I aspire to move further into journalism, and am excited to use and develop my skills whilst writing on the student perspective as an NUS Journalist. I’m also a photographer and enjoy using both words and images to share new and interesting stories.