Elimu is studying the attainment gap between African-Caribbean students and their white counterparts, as it is presenting a real challenge for UK higher education outcomes.
To gain first-hand insight from students who are challenging this statistic, we attended the second Black Education Matters Conference, which was hosted by De Montfort University alumni in Leicester. This conference challenges the attainment gap and supports students to achieve top degree classifications, alongside employability skills and resources.
Speakers at the conference highlighted a number of alarming issues, including the lack of Black senior management in universities and the fact that Black students are 25% less likely to graduate with a 2:1 than their white peers. Derrick Mensah advised that although there is a lot of talk around curriculum and staff levels, Black students need to be involved in solution-making. This means getting involved in campaigns, committees and conferences, but also taking up opportunities for personal development, such as university trips and joining societies. Such activities are important because, as Vanessa Erivona explained, some students may not feel that placements, internships and grad schemes are accessible to them. However, it is these extra-curricular activities that can make students more competitive and confident to go for career opportunities. Rachel Appiah benefitted from such activities and spoke about her experiences at the conference. She advised her peers that, while there are wider systemic issues to tackle, students also need to make the effort to challenge their own complacency, comfort zone and comparison. This begins with trying new things (i.e. trips, volunteering or societies), so that they can develop the confidence and resilience to consistently put themselves forward for opportunities. Zul Muhammad advised that extra-curricular activities will develop the transferrable skills that students need to support them not only in the bottle-necked application process, but also in the work place.
The BEM conference was for students, by students; demonstrating the ability of young people to challenge the barriers to their graduate success. This has influenced our research by indicating that solutions need not only involve students, they must also be driven by them; with lecturers, researchers and institutions taking up a supportive role. To kick off this support, Elimu will be promoting opportunities for young people to take up extra-curricular activities i.e. volunteering, attending events or placements. If you would like to sponsor a young person to take up such opportunities, check out our Events page and Contact Us detailing the support you’d like to give (i.e. sponsoring travel or buying a ticket to an event). Alternatively, sharing the opportunities across your own networks will be a great way to show your support.