University of Glasgow front gates. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

BAME and international students at UofG need more support

By Sanskar Ranglani

While the degree-awarding gap between BAME and white students is narrowing, what can the university do to actively work towards closing the gap completely?

Last month, The Glasgow Guardian published a report on the difference in award gap between students of colour (referred to as BAME students) and white students. According to the report, BAME students tend to underperform as compared to their white counterparts, although this gap appears to have narrowed considerably in recent years. 

As an international student and person of colour myself, learning about this gap reminded me of the many instances where I have felt a lack of support from the university to aid my own learning requirements. While the report does not break down whether the award gap is wider between international students of colour compared to local students of colour, my personal experience would resonate more with the international students who come from different cultures and educational backgrounds and are given little-to-no support or time to adjust to the new academic as well as cultural environment at The University of Glasgow. 

Within the first few months of arriving at university, we are tasked with completing the Academic Writing Skills Programme (AWSP). The aim of this is to test our ability to write in an academically sound language. However, in my opinion, the assignment itself is quite ambiguous with no clear instructions on what is expected, or an example of a model essay. To add to this, a lot of the students are asked to complete this during the second semester, which may be too late for many postgraduate students, who are already more than halfway through their course at university. In my experience, the feedback provided for the assignment is extremely vague, and for international students – many of whom speak English as a second language – the lack of feedback defeats the purpose of the assignment. 

We also have the student learning development (SLD) team, previously known as LEADs, who run special classes aimed at international students to help them perform better, as well as provide feedback on currently unmarked assignments. However, having attended one of these sessions, I didn’t receive much support since my session with the adviser barely spanned 30 minutes. This problem is exacerbated by the lack of available appointments, now that the number of international students at the university has risen exponentially. Some of my other friends who have attended these sessions have felt the same way as I have, which makes me feel that this was not a one-off experience. 

When it comes to the gap between BAME and white students, specifically, there may be several factors behind this. These include differences in socio-economic status between white students and students of colour. A study published in 2021 by The University of Reading suggested certain changes which can be adopted by the university to bridge this gap. The first recommendation laid out by the study is to increase the financial support available to students of minority ethnic backgrounds, which will improve access to education and reduce barriers, as well as increase the level of belonging that students of colour feel at university. 

Another suggestion from the study was to increase the representation of minority ethnic staff at the university, with particular emphasis on increasing staff diversity. The study found by interviewing several students that most of them believed that the breadth and content of the curriculum will greatly improve with a more diverse staff. 

Greater diversity in curriculum was also recommended, and from personal experience, the University of Glasgow’s decolonising campaigns have done a good job of trying to achieve more diversity in the curriculum. However, now is the time to build more on this momentum.

The final recommendation from the study was to make the available support more visible and accessible, as students from minority ethnic backgrounds are less likely to seek support for their issues from the available services at the university. However, the state of student support services at the university has already faced criticism. Ensuring that BAME students receive adequate support may be part of bridging the degree-awarding gap between BAME students and white students, but the existing issues with the support services makes me question whether we’ll ever actually see this change. 

Moving forward, to close the awarding gap between students from minority ethnic backgrounds and white students, long-term strategy changes at the administration and staff levels are required. The university needs to proactively consult students from minority ethnic backgrounds, collect their opinions and form a list of objectives they think will address these issues. The administration needs to invest more significantly into this area if they are serious about bridging this award-gap, and hopefully take the student voice into account.


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Hugh Millar

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”