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Increasing Participation by BAME Students at the University of Edinburgh: Understanding School Pupils’ Higher Education Decision-Making

The University of Edinburgh is committed to increasing the number and proportion of undergraduate students from BAME backgrounds, with a particular emphasis on widening participation for local students, but more knowledge is required to understand existing patterns of participation and the measures which are likely to improve institutional performance.

Background

The University of Edinburgh is committed to increasing the number and proportion of undergraduate students from BAME backgrounds, with a particular emphasis on widening participation for local students, but more knowledge is required to understand existing patterns of participation and the measures which are likely to improve institutional performance.

Research aims and questions

This research will:

  1. Locate the study within the wider context of what is already known about patterns of HE participation by Scottish BAME students.  The review will identify barriers to HE participation experienced by BAME students and the recruitment and support strategies which appear to be successful in increasing participation.
  2. Develop a better understanding of patterns of participation by BAME students drawing on a range of administrative data gathered by the Scottish Government, the SFC, the University of Edinburgh and the City of Edinburgh Council.
  3. Identify the reasons given by local school pupils for their decision to either apply to the University of Edinburgh or to other institutions in Scotland or in the rest of the UK.

Research questions are as follows:

  1. What are the key messages of the academic and policy literature in relation to HE decision-making by Scottish BAME students, the nature of the barriers experienced and successful institutional interventions?
  2. What may be learnt from administrative data about the patterns of HE participation by BAME students, taking account of a range of variables which intersect with ethnicity, including social class (as measured by SIMD), gender and subject studied?
  3. What messages emerge from the accounts of local school pupils in relation to their HE decisions?

Methods

Research Question 1

A brief review will be undertaken of the relevant policy and academic literature to contextualise the study in relations to patters of participation by Scottish BAME students, taking account of inter-sectionality.

Research Question 2

Administrative data collared and published by SFC, the Scottish Government, the University of Edinburgh and the City of Edinburgh Council. We will not gather new data, but drawing together existing data will provide a clear picture of which Scottish and RUK institutions are chosen by different groups of BAME pupils, with a particular focus on schools in Edinburgh and the Lothians, Fife and South East Scotland. This analysis will contribute to our interview sampling framework and will help us to understand the typicality of our interviewees.

Research Question 3

The main part of the research will consist of an interview study with about 30 school pupils in Edinburgh and hinterland. BAME students applying to university for 2021 admission will be asked which universities they are applying to in Scotland and the rest of the UK and the reasons underlying their choice, taking account of a range of factors including qualifications attained, institutional perceptions, social networks and financial considerations. Analysis of interview data will take account of a range of social variables in addition to ethnicity, including SIMD, gender, school attended and subject studies.  Access will be facilitated by a range of widening access projects and existing school contacts. Given the current context, we anticipate that most interviews will be conducted by Zoom/Teams and recorded.

Timetable

Period Description Dec 2020 – Jan 2021 Analysis of administrative data and literature/policy review. Ethical approval. Liaison with schools and setting up interviews. Feb – April 2021 Conduct and analysis of interviews. Apr – Jul 2021 Writing of final report, research briefing and dissemination activities. Funder

Widening Access Office, University of Edinburgh

Start date Dec 2020
End date Jul 2021

Research team