A new report is urging universities to work harder in closing the ‘degree gap’ between white and black students.

The Universities UK group and the National Union of Students are now calling for principals and vice chancellors to show ‘strong leadership’ in closing this gap.

They say they need to ensure their campuses are encouraging racially diverse student bodies and workforces.

The report also highlights that there needs to be a culture change in British universities and the leadership teams to narrow the degree gap.

The report states: “A change in culture is needed with a clear institutional message that race issues will be dealt with as part of wider, organisational practice and not as an add-on.”

Universities UK is asking its members to sign an online pledge

Now, Universities UK is asking its 140 members to sign an online pledge to work with students and use the recommendations highlighted in the report within their institutions. Progress will be evaluated next year.

The report highlights that despite the increase in the number of black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students over the last 10 years, 71% of Asian students, and 57% of black students, managed to gain an upper second or first for their undergraduate degree.

This compares with 81% of white students.

Also, black students are, it has been estimated, to be one and a half times more likely to drop out of university than Asian or white students.

Among the report’s key recommendations is that BAME students would benefit from having a campus environment that is racially diverse.

University leadership teams are not representative of their student bodies

The report states that university leadership teams are not representative of their student bodies and some curriculums are not reflecting the experiences of minority groups.

The report writers’ state: “A greater focus from universities is needed to work with students and ensuring that BAME students have a sense of belonging at the university.”

In 2017, the report notes that 16% of all academic staff were from a BAME, that’s a higher rate than for the UK’s population.

However, just 0.6% of all professors are black.

Chris Millward of the higher education regulator, the Office for Students, says universities need to act urgently on the report’s recommendations.

He added: “We know that gaps in attainment between some ethnic groups is stopping some students from fulfilling their potential. In particular, black students are less likely to complete their studies or secure a first or upper second-class degree and to find graduate-level employment than their white peers. That’s not right, and it must change.”