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29 November 2021

Policy Institute and TASO to evaluate interventions to improve BAME students' access to postgraduate research

New project will provide evidence for how to address underrepresentation of BAME students

PGR ethnicity gap News story

For Higher Education Providers to produce research that is fit for the future they must ensure that their institutions reflect the diverse make-up of the UK. One crucial way to achieve this is by addressing the barriers to postgraduate research (PGR) study for scholars from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds.

Black, Asian and minority ethnic students are currently underrepresented in postgraduate study, and there has been minimal progress to improve enrolment levels over the past decade. In 2010/11, BAME students made up just 15.7 per cent of PGR cohorts at high-tariff universities, and this increased to just 17.1 per cent in 2017/18.

The reasons for this are complex and multi-faceted. For instance, students from minority ethnic groups are more likely to lack access to financial support, as well as information and guidance on funding for and applying to PGR study, all of which may constitute barriers to PGR progression. In addition, the degree attainment gap between White undergraduate students and Black, Asian and minority ethnic undergraduate students also plays a role in prohibiting access to PGR study for BAME students. 

We are thrilled to be working with the Office for Students (OfS) and Research England (RE) to build evidence on the best ways to address this inequity of progression to PGR study. The Policy Institute and the Centre for Transforming Access and Student Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO) have been selected to evaluate the impact of 13 projects, funded by the OfS and RE, that seek to improve access and participation for Black, Asian and minority ethnic students in postgraduate study. Each project takes a unique approach and seeks to redress inequalities across various points in the student lifecycle, including equity gaps in admissions.

Our research aims to investigate the extent to which successful projects are able to increase the access and participation of BAME scholars in PGR study by comparing the trends in progression, retention, and completion rates for Black, Asian and minority ethnic scholars between funded higher education providers and comparable providers who have not received the PGR fund.

We will will work with each of the 13 projects to develop an evaluation strategy that reflects their theory of change – their views about how their project will achieve its desired aims – and will also use a quasi-experimental method to understand the overarching impact of the funding.

Additionally, TASO is also currently working to assess whether curricular interventions might close the undergraduate degree awarding gap in a separate project, offering an opportunity to better understand the inequalities that ultimately impact on postgraduate study, and how to address them. 

Dr Omar Khan, Director of TASO, said:

“TASO is delighted to be working with King’s College London on this important project. We are looking forward to working with select providers to determine how we might better evaluate interventions that seek to address this longstanding and persistent inequality in higher education. We are also aware of how postgraduate study relates to racial inequalities in higher education: from the undergraduate experience to the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic academics and senior leaders. By the end of this project, we should have a better understanding of what works to tackle this gap, improve outcomes for Black, Asian and minority students and staff, and make considerable progress in addressing racial inequalities across higher education.”

For more information about the funding and the projects, see here:

We are also pleased to see this work being highlighted as part of the government's levelling up agenda.

The team working on the evaluation can be contacted on