Why do black students quit university more often than their white peers?

Jan 17, 2018 by

Black students are 1.5 times more likely to drop out than their white and Asian counterparts. Understanding why is vital

Kaya is one of a worrying number of black higher-education students who have failed to make it to graduation day. A recent study found that 10.3% of black students quit university early in England, compared with 6.9% for the student population as a whole.

“I had so many racially-tinted, miserable experiences at my university,” says Kaya, who has asked the Guardian not to use her real name. “My male housemate used to say the ‘n-word’ in front of me, bragged about the fact he’d once racially abused a man in a club, and was so aggressive when I asked him to stop. Yet when I told my university counsellor, she said I couldn’t know for sure if my housemate was actually racist … that I needed to live and let live.”

Kaya completed just under two years of her sociology degree before quitting. “I felt as if I was going crazy in my own home, and the counsellor exacerbated that by not taking my distress seriously.”

The study, co-published by the University Partnerships Programme Foundation (UPP) and the Social Market Foundation (SMF), indicates that while there has been a measured effort to increase diversity quotas across UK higher-education institutions, less consideration has been given to the range of social, cultural and structural factors that make black students 1.5 times more likely to drop out of university than their white and Asian counterparts.

Heather, 23, says she dropped out of a business management degree at the University of Brighton despite achieving good grades because of factors relating to her race and mental health. “I found I was living with people I didn’t have anything in common with, and I also didn’t have the support network I had at home. Tutors didn’t seem to care about me; nobody asked where I was if I didn’t come to class. I felt like a lot of other students were cared about more than I was, and grew quite depressed.”

The expectations of her parents – a common theme among second and third generation BAME students – saw Heather stick it out longer at the university than she would have liked. “My parents wanted me to be the first person in our family to graduate. They worked extra hard, so I actually stayed at Brighton longer than I should have as I was worried what they would think.”

The University of Brighton declined to comment on Heather’s individual circumstances, but maintained it is “fully committed to providing an inclusive experience for all of our students. All our student services staff have received unconscious bias training, which we also recommend to all university staff … We also have a successful and well-established mentoring scheme in place specifically to support BAME students.”

Source: Why do black students quit university more often than their white peers? | Inequality | The Guardian

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