NUS reveals institutional racism
by Hélène Feest
The National Union of Students (NUS) has revealed unacceptable levels of institutional racism in further and higher education. A report, entitled “Race for Equality”, collates the experiences of 938 students of African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean descent.
It found that black students are less likely to achieve a first-class degree and express lower levels of satisfaction. This is partly due to the fact that black students are disproportionately absent from the country’s top universities. For example, 85.36% of Durham students identify themselves as white.
One of the report’s key conclusions is that black students are suffering from low expectations at every stage of their education. Many students claimed that their teachers expected them to do poorly and respected their work less. Furthermore, many respondents said that they were aware of having internalised these low expectations, and that it made them less motivated in their studies.
In response, the NUS proposes that anonymous marking be used for coursework, in an attempt to tackle teacher bias and restore black students’ confidence in the system.
The report also describes the curriculum as discouraging. 42% of students said that the content of their course did not adequately deal with the issues of diversity, equality and discrimination. One respondent argued that the curriculum ensured that white students felt inherently more “accepted and included into the system”
Similarly, one third of respondents said that they could not put forward their own perspective in class, leaving them feeling isolated and ignored.
The report is manifestly opposed to the budget cuts resulting from the Comprehensive Spending Review. It argues that the axing of the Education Maintenance Allowance and the increase in tuition fees will exacerbate the difficulties facing black students, since a higher proportion of black students come from poor backgrounds.
Kanja Sesay, the NUS National Black Students’ Officer, writes, “This is no way… to build a tolerant and prosperous country.”