The experience of BME commuting students
The reasons for the black and minority ethnic (BME) student degree attainment gap are complex and multifactorial. However, it appears that increasing numbers of all students are commuting to campus from the parental and family home, something now disproportionately exemplified by BME students at Leeds Beckett University.
This paper outlines findings from a small, qualitative project focusing on commuting BME undergraduates and explores how their issues and needs have been addressed through a range of cultural, infrastructural and curricular interventions.
The main issue of concern which supports the recent report (Thomas and Jones, 2017) is that many commuting BME students will prioritise academic engagement but are unaware of the wider social and cultural capital that can be gained from participating in extra-curricular activities. It is clear that some difficulties faced by BME commuting students are identical to those faced by all commuting students: stress, impractical timetabling and assessment deadlines, ‘invisibility’. BME students (commuting and non-commuting) are already often disadvantaged by a poorer learning experience than that of their peers and consequently by lower degree attainment (Richardson, 2008a & b, Newbold et al., 2011) and reduced employability (Allen, 2016), an inequality that may be compounded in the case of those disproportionately high numbers of BME students who also commute.
University action must be situated within a broader framework of inclusive academic practice, drawing on a “holistic engagement vision” (Pickford, 2016, p. 31) of infrastructural support and partnership working between students and staff.
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