"We must level the playing field for BAME students" says new Vice-Chancellor

The University of Leicester’s new vice-chancellor has pledged to eliminate the ‘awarding gap’ which sees many students missing out on top degrees.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, who takes up his role as the university’s first BAME Vice-Chancellor today, will drive inclusion improvements as he takes the helm at one of the most diverse universities in the UK with 52% of its students coming from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

Professor Canagarajah said: “The awarding gap is one of the most pressing priorities both for me, the university and the sector. That includes the way we talk about the awarding gap, as opposed to the BAME attainment gap, which shifts the onus on change from student to institution.”

The University of Leicester currently has an awarding gap of 10% compared with the national 13% - the difference between the chances of white and BAME students getting a first or upper second class honours degree - and Professor Canagarajah has pledged to eliminate the difference by 2025.

The university has also identified a BAME student satisfaction gap of 10% and pledges to similarly eliminate this gap to ensure all its students fully enjoy their learning experience within the next five years.

Professor Canagarajah continued: “The University of Leicester needs to close both its awarding and satisfaction gaps, which disproportionately affect black students. We must level the playing field. As a community our citizens can do this - we have a duty to each other to make sure everyone feels that they belong and can succeed."

He added: “My vision is to enhance the experience of every student from every background at the University of Leicester by equipping them with all the necessary skills to be successful in whatever career they choose.”

The University has introduced a number of initiatives to close the awarding and satisfaction gaps, including:

  • An access and participation plan which provides a clear roadmap to reduce the awarding gap by 2025.
  • An education excellence programme in partnership with the Students’ Union, including an initiative to recruit more BAME staff.
  • Participation in Advance HE’s Towards Embedding Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Curriculum Collaborative Project alongside five other universities.
  • Changes to the curriculum to reduce assessment pressure on students, including reducing exam hours and increasing tutor contact time.