University of Leicester
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The Black Student Experience: Comparing STEM Undergraduate Student Experiences at Higher Education Institutions of Varying Student Demographic

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-12-23, 11:50 authored by Racheal Greaves, Bozhena Kelestyn, Richard AR Blackburn, Russell RA Kitson
Although having shown signs of closing in recent years, the Black attainment gap in UK Higher Education continues to be significant and, as such, has received considerable attention in the literature, media, and government. The reasons behind the attainment gap are complex, requiring further research in the area. On observing a possible trend in Black students’ lower attendance, the following research questions were postulated: Is there any evidence to suggest that Black students are overrepresented among those students who have a low attendance track record? If so, what are the reasons to explain this overrepresentation, and how can this be addressed? Quantitative attendance data analysis suggested that at one department Black students were indeed more likely to disengage from their course than non-Black students. With limited prior studies, particularly within STEM subjects, the exploration of Black students’ experiences in STEM departments at two UK universities of differing student ethnicity demographic, but similar staff ethnicity demographic, is reported herein, using a methodology that has not been used in STEM within higher education to our knowledge. The results reveal that Black students often do not feel represented or welcome at university, frequently turning to their university societies rather than their department/school for support where they feel more able to relate to others of similar ethnicity and discuss their experiences. Furthermore, they may benefit from a greater diversity of teaching and assessment approaches than is currently on offer, moving away from traditional lectures and with a greater emphasis on small group teaching. While some minor differences were observed between the students’ experiences at institutions of differing student ethnicity demographic, the findings show that the lack of representation in the staff body, the use of “traditional” teaching approaches ,and the practice of “spreading” Black (and other minority ethnic) students evenly across small teaching groups are very likely having a detrimental effect, with the knock-on consequences of reduced attendance, course engagement, and attainment.



J. Chem. Educ. 2021,

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School of Chemistry


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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Journal of Chemical Education


American Chemical Society (ACS)





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