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Black Advisory Hub


The Black awarding gap and decolonisation at Cambridge: an open forum about the data, student experiences and ways forward

When: Thursday 9 March 2023, 10.00 - 16.30 
Where:  Exam Halls, Student Services Centre, Bene't Street, New Museums Site
Who: All Cambridge staff and students were welcome

Click below to view the following:

Outline of the Day

Student & Staff Panels

Student-led Workshops

Roundtable Discussion

Background behind the event 

Cambridge is one of the world’s leading higher education institutions, yet Black British students are statistically less likely to be awarded a First or Good Honours degree compared to their white peers. This is known as an 'awarding gap'. Institutional analysis of admissions data has shown that this disparity cannot be explained by factors such as previous education, socio-economic background or other intersecting variables. The University has made a commitment to eliminate these inequitable degree outcomes and the last four years have seen larger numbers of Black student admissions as well as considerable investment in research on the reasons for these troubling statistics.

We hosted a one-day forum which was open to all Cambridge staff and students as an opportunity to explore, learn, and contribute towards a shared understanding about the impact of awarding gaps on Black undergraduate students. It was also a chance to reflect and critically engage on strategies and practices to address inequitable educational experiences at Cambridge, including the range of decolonisation initiatives already underway across the University. Creating a space to gather our views, ideas and questions helped us understand how the University move forward in a mutually beneficial way.

The programme was co-designed by a team of student and staff researchers involved in the Access and Participation Plan’s Participatory Action Research Project and the Black Advisory Hub.  The day involved spoken-word performances, workshops co-facilitated by student teams, panels on topics related to Black awarding gaps data and decolonisation initiatives at Cambridge, live illustration by James the Scribe, and other exciting activities designed by our student team.  

The keynote speaker for the event was Dr Paul Ian Campbell, who presented on the topic: “My family’s always like, make sure you pray that the person marking your work isn’t racist”: Identifying and measurably reducing racial inequities in HE assessment practice. 

The event was launched by Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Bhaskar Vira. After a day of student-led workshops, panels, and atrium activities, we closed with a Roundtable discussion chaired by Professor Jason Arday, who was in his first week as the new Professor in Sociology of Education at the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge. Mary Simuyandi, the Head of student wellbeing at St Catherine's College, and Myesha Jemison, a postgraduate student at Cambridge who is currently supervising undergraduates, were respondents to the Roundtable.