There are persistent racial inequalities in higher education. One such inequality is that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students typically achieve lower marks in higher education (HE) than their White peers. Researchers argue that the ‘whiteness’ or Eurocentricity of the curriculum my explain why these gaps in attainment exist.
Working with the University of Kent and the University of Leicester, this project seeks to establish whether reforming the curriculum to make it more diverse will increase attainment in BAME students. We also aim to understand whether reforming the curriculum improves the experience of BAME students in terms of their engagement with module content and satisfaction with the module.
What are we doing?
The University of Kent’s curriculum reform intervention is known as the ‘Diversity Mark’ initiative, an institution-wide award that is given to modules that can offer a diverse and inclusive range of resources for their students via their reading lists.
- The initiative awards convenors that undergo a process of review and reflection with their students to ensure they have considered authors and perspectives from diverse racial backgrounds within their modules.
- This guidance is provided through the Diversity Mark Toolkit.
- Analysis will take the form of a matched difference-in-differences on the attainment trend of the diversified modules with five selected comparator modules.
- This approach will take into account existing differences between the groups using historic data and then, rather than simply measuring the difference in outcomes between the two groups post-intervention, we are interested in the additional difference on top of the pre-existing difference in outcomes.
- The primary outcome measure will be the module level attainment of BAME students in diversified modules compared with the attainment of BAME students in matched comparator modules.
- White and BAME students from both experimental and comparator modules will also complete surveys on their perception of the cultural sensitivity of the curricula, their engagement with the modules, and their satisfaction with the modules.
The University of Leicester’s curriculum reform is known as the ‘Decolonising the Curriculum Toolkit’.
- The toolkit provides a framework for staff to reflect on and revise programmes of study, modules and cultural practices, to make the curriculum more engaging and better connected to all students at the university.
- This toolkit provides guidance on developing more inclusive content, such as imagery, case studies, and reading lists. It also reviews assessment processes and module teaching through consultation with students.
- The toolkit has been implemented across all undergraduate Sociology modules in the academic year 2020/21.
- Our analysis will take the form of a matched difference-in-differences on the attainment trend of the Sociology course with selected comparator courses in which the decolonising toolkit has not been implemented.
- The primary outcome measure will be the course level attainment of BAME students in Sociology compared with the attainment of BAME students in matched comparator courses.
- Surveys and focus groups will be implemented to capture students’ perception of the cultural sensitivity of the curricula, their engagement with the course, and their overall satisfaction with the course.
- Staff will also be interviewed to understand degrees of engagement with the toolkit and how the process of implementing the toolkit can be improved.