Awakening the unconscious: mind the attainment gap

Rita D'Alton-Harrison

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This discussion paper summarises recent UK research into the attainment gap between UK domiciled white students and those from other ethnicities who are also domiciled in the UK. The paper discusses how universities might adopt a student-centred approach to their intervention strategies to close the attainment gap. Domicile is defined as the student‟s permanent or home address prior to entering higher education. „Attainment‟ refers to the student‟s level of success in assessments leading to the award of a degree. The „attainment gap‟ is the difference between the numbers of white UK students achieving a first-class or upper second class degree as measured against UK students from other ethnicities. This paper argues that in order to assist in addressing the attainment gap, universities must first acknowledge the existence of so-called „unconscious bias‟, a preference or affinity towards certain types of people or groups and then put in place appropriate attitude-changing interventions. Secondly, it is suggested that the implementation of an ongoing, open dialogue between students and staff may offer a powerful means of understanding the student perception of issues that may be affecting their educational attainment and in doing so, allow the institution to formulate and implement effective intervention strategies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)27-40
JournalBlended Learning in Practice
Issue numberAutumn
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013


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