DS 110: Proceedings of the 23rd International Conference on Engineering and Product Design Education (E&PDE 2021), VIA Design, VIA University in Herning, Denmark. 9th -10th September 2021

Year: 2021
Editor: Grierson, Hilary; Bohemia, Erik; Buck, Lyndon
Author: Underwood, Gary (2); Conrad, Franziska (1)
Series: E&PDE
Institution: 1: Arts University Bournemouth, United Kingdom; 2: Bournemouth Univeristy
Section: Addressing Ethical and Social Issues in Design Education
DOI number: 10.35199/EPDE.2021.35
ISBN: 978-1-912254-14-9


While access to University education for Black students has improved significantly in the UK over the past decade, there remains a major discrepancy in success rates at degree level. Students with an African or Caribbean heritage are considerably less likely to obtain good honours (first or 2:1) in their degree classification than any other ethnic group and are also less likely to maintain their course through to completion. While differences in entry qualifications may play a part, the larger part of this awarding and retention gap must be due to other factors. Recent international events have focused attention on the issues of systemic racism and colonialism in a broader context. Drawing on an overview of the initiatives currently being proposed by the UK’s top creative universities to tackle the awarding gap, this paper uses interviews with past and present Black students from art and design courses at Arts University Bournemouth (AUB) and Bournemouth University (BU) to explore a range of issues - including economic and cultural barriers, institutional bias, educational content, communication issues, and direct and indirect racism. Some of the proposed initiatives for tackling the problem are also discussed, and while the responses highlight the underlying complexity which is causing the slow progress in closing the awarding gap for Black students in higher education, the desire to be better understood and supported as individuals by lecturers and peers, with greater opportunity for open and frank dialogue, was paramount.

Keywords: Black, BAME, race, diversity, awarding gap


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