Student Success

Promoting student equality, diversity and inclusivity

2016 Conference

Closing the gap: Research and Practice on Black and Minority Ethnic Student Attainment in Higher Education

Monday 27th June, University of Kent, Canterbury Campus (Grimond Building)


The first University of Kent “Closing the gap: Research and Practice on Black and Minority Ethnic Student Attainment in Higher Education” conference successfully took place on Monday 27th June 2016. The special one-day conference was hosted by the Student Success (EDI) Project and brought together academic researchers, policy-makers and practitioners on the issue of race and ethnicity in higher education, in order to explore how to inspire, support and share excellent practice in closing the attainment gap between white and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students.

Research has shown that BME undergraduates are less likely to convert their entry qualifications into a ‘good’ degree across the higher education sector. With this issue rapidly moving up the policy agenda, universities are tasked with finding new and innovative ways of closing the gap. Not only does this require gaining a better understanding of the experiences and needs of its BME students, it also involves critically evaluating university culture, including the role of universities in tackling inequality. The conference provided a great opportunity for academics and practitioners currently engaged with these issues to share their research, insights and initiatives, and make a significant contribution to the debate.

Keynote Speakers

Our conference was privileged to have had the following keynote speakers:



As well as our keynote speakers, we invited six highly respected discussants to help summarise and add to our presentation sessions. They helped to generate discussion around the conference themes and engender lively engagement during the Question and Answer sessions.



Conference themes and sessions

The session titles were:

  • Enhancing BME Student Skills and Employability
  • The Attainment Gap: Re-thinking University Policy
  • What Works: University Interventions
  • Research and Race in Higher Education

All six sessions covered the main conference themes:

  • Theory and pedagogy relevant to improving BME performance in higher education
  • Research on race and ethnicity in higher education, including the white-BME attainment gap
  • Policy reviews and proposals on BME attainment in higher education
  • Practices, interventions and initiatives: examples of new and innovative teaching and learning approaches beneficial to BME attainment

In particular, the conference aimed to address the following questions:

  • How might class, language, family background and prior schooling affect BME students’ performance in HE?
  • What impact does ethnicity have on students’ choice of HEI and academic course?
  • Do HEIs deliver a curriculum, style of learning, or method of communication that privileges white students?
  • What are the policy implications for the endurance of the white-BME attainment gap?
  • What initiatives, interventions and approaches have proven successful in addressing the white-BME attainment gap?



  • "The conference had quality presentations as well as thought provoking keynotes."
  • "We benefited from hearing real practitioners speaking."
  • "Interesting range of talks."
  • "Really excellent conference for its content, it packed a lot in."
  • "The talks, predominately the keynote speakers, have been of a very high quality."


For any questions please feel free to contact us via our web form or by telephone on: (01227) 816194.





© University of Kent

Student Success, University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T: +44 (01227) 816513

Last Updated: 04/12/2017