Addressing Differential Outcomes for BAME Learners


What does BAME stand for?

The acronym ‘BAME’ stands for Black and Minority Ethnic and is a term widely used within education. However, it is a not a term that is commonly recognised by many. More to the point, it is not a term that is necessarily seen as inclusive and sensitive to how ethnic groups want to be identified. So, if we don’t use the terminology ‘BAME’ then what terminology should we be using?

NEON’s focus: What does racial equality in Higher Education look like in practice?

It begins with a Chair who genuinely shows her pride at being able to lead the event, Dr Karen Lipsedge from Kingston University. After opening the session, she introduces the three key areas of focus and provides an insightful overview of each speaker.


On request, Dr Gurnham Singh from Coventry University, is back a second time to discuss COVID-19 in relation to addressing differential outcomes for BME learners. Dr Singh’s presentation examined eradicating differential outcomes for BAME students and developing simple solutions to a complex problem.
The main topics of discussion was BAME attainment and participation. BAME participation is steadily increasing and we are seeing a lot more diversity within higher education. However, despite improvements to attainment happening across the board, the gap still exists and is yet to close. Dr Singh eluded to a horrifying truth that this gap is not likely to close until 2085 or 2086! Therefore, if we continue as we are, we will not see the gap close within this lifetime.

Dr Singh then discussed the ‘application of the complexity theory’, this places a problem within three different definitions, simple, complicated, and complex. If we were to address the problem of BAME attainment it would be defined as a complex problem, with a plan to solve and develop solutions to complex problems. Dr Singh concludes that going forward we could do a variety of things such as, avoiding putting the blame on individuals, reflecting on our actions and consequences regardless of how big or small they may be and that any change we look at has to be sustained and sustainable.

White Allyship

The second speaker of the session was Jo MacDonnell from The University of Brighton, Jo attended to discuss her presentation White Allyship; being an effective ally for people of colour. Jo’s reflects on her own perspective and experience of being a white ally in a higher education context. So, what do you have to do to become a successful white ally? Amongst Jo’s insightful advice, there are four very significant points she raised. Prepare to reflect. Prepare to listen. Prepare to learn and prepare to challenge.

Jo explained the various factors to take into consideration before becoming a white ally. One of the main points is that white allyship is not something you can learn from training, whilst it is recognised that training can provide support, it doesn’t teach you how to become a white ally. It is a mindset that you either do or don’t have. No one can be converted into becoming a white ally! To summarise, what can we do to better understand white allyship? We can read the resources that are available to us, we can listen to others such as Jo and their experiences and we can develop the confidence to stand up and challenge others when we believe something is wrong.

Race Equality Charter

The third and final speaker of the session was Bhavik Anil Patel from the University of Brighton, to discuss the Race Equality Charter (REC). The focus of Bhavik’s presentation was to educate delegates on the processes, benefits and values gained from engaging with the REC. The REC is a strategic framework associated with race within higher education and was established in 2014-2015. As this was launched a decade after the Athena Swan award, Bhavik explained that the number of university members of the Race Equality Charter is lower in comparison to the Athena Swan award. Therefore, the Race Equality Charter has not made enough leverage in terms of establishment to support race equality in higher education.
Bhavik also examines the importance and benefits of institutions engaging with the REC as an award holder. With one benefit being the most important and relevant to the session. Addressing the BME attainment gap and understanding the lived experiences of BME students.

Breakout Rooms

Towards the end of the session attendees were asked to split into virtual break out rooms for in depth discussions. The breakout rooms gave attendees an opportunity to select one of the three presentations that stood out to them the most with a chance to share their own examples of good practice. During discussions individuals acknowledged the positives to implementing one of these models within higher education institutions, but also recognised the challenges and barriers to address in order to do so.
NEON enlisted three great presenters, with three different experiences but each possess a broad knowledge of BAME learners. Overall, the session was enlightening and provides individuals with the knowledge they need to be aware of when looking to address differential outcomes for BAME learners.

Author: Nina March

For more information on the speakers:

Dr Karen Lipsedge, Associate Professor in English Literature, Kingston University

Dr Gurnham Singh, Principal Lecturer in Social Work and Visiting Professor of Social Work, Coventry University

Joanna MacDonnell, Director of Education Arts and Humanities, University of Brighton

Bhavik Anil Patel, Professor of Clinical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, University of Brighton