Considering the role of learning and teaching in student attainment and outcomes links to all of our curriculum principles, notably supporting the needs of all learners and articulating a course-wide approach to learning.
Connections with the Access and Participation Plan
The role of the curriculum in our institutional commitments to addressing undergraduate Home UK attainment differentials are outlined in our Access and Participation Plan. The current APP is a five-year plan which runs from 2020/21 to 2024/25. The aim is to ensure that underrepresented and disadvantaged students from the UK are supported to access courses at Bath, have a good student experience whilst here, and have no difference in outcomes (drop-out rates, degrees awarded and employment choices secured) compared with other students.
The student groups we are guided to support with this money are those:
- from areas where few go on to HE (this is measured through a home postcode-based index called POLAR (Participation rates Of Local AReas);
- from low socio-economic areas (this is measured through another home postcode-based measure called IMD (Index of Multiple Deprivation, and also our bursary holders);
- from ethnic minority groups;
- with disabilities;
- from small more vulnerable cohorts such as care leavers, refugees, estranged students, and other small groups who might have some particular needs such as mature students/student parents.
Two key institutional targets are:
- Target 4: Degree Outcomes – BAME/White attainment gap (percentages getting a first or 2i): Using an average of 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 as a baseline percentage point gap (7.0) the gaps will be: 2020/21 = not more than 6.0 percentage points; 2021/22 = not more than 5.0 percentage points; 2022/23 = not more than 4.0 percentage points; 2023/24 = not more than 3.0 percentage points; 2024/25 = not more than 2.0 percentage points.
- Target 5: Degree Outcomes – Narrow attainment gap between students with and without disabilities:
Using 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 as a baseline percentage point gap (3.0) the gaps will be: 2020/21 = not more than 2.5 percentage points; 2021/22 = not more than 2.0 percentage points; 2022/23 = not more than 1.5 percentage points; 2023/24 = not more than 1.0 percentage point; 2024/25 = no gap.
Curriculum Transformation is a key opportunity to review approaches to curriculum assessment to support the needs of all learners. Our approach to the Bath Blend also places a key focus on the importance of accessibility as part of our CASE model for blended learning.
In support of Target 4, guidance for staff on underrepresented students is available via the CLT Hub, as well as information on decolonising the curriculum. There is also a wealth of guidance and resources to support transitions and designing for your future students. Further advice and resources from the Office for Students is also available.
In support of Target 5, guidance for staff on supporting students with disabilities is available via the CLT Hub. Advice is also available from the Disability Service and from the Assistive Technology team. Further advice and resources from the Office for Students is also available.
Understanding attainment differentials
There is an explicit evidenced link between students’ degree outcomes and curriculum. Where students of particular identities or demographics may be performing differently, research points to underpinning factors within learning and teaching for these disparities. A critical review undertaken by HEFCE identified four key explanatory factors for attainment differentials:
- Curricula and learning, including teaching and assessment practices: Different student groups have different levels of satisfaction with the higher education curricula and with the user-friendliness of learning, teaching and assessment practices.
- Relationships between staff and students and relationships among students: A sense of ‘belonging’ is a key factor that influences student outcomes.
- Social, cultural and economic capital: There are recurring differences in how students experience higher education, how they network and how they draw on external support. Students’ financial situations also affect their student experience and engagement with learning and extra-curricular activities.
- Psychosocial and identity factors: How far students feel supported and encouraged in their daily interactions within their organisations and with staff members is important. Such interactions can both help and limit students’ learning and attainment.
Looking at the four areas above, your course can take particular action in relation to 1, 2 and 4, whilst being aware of 3.
Review your NSS data (preferably with students) and identify your hotspot areas.
Consider your approach to transition and improving the sense of belonging or learning community, including the role of peer-to-peer approaches such as Peer-assisted learning. Find out more on the Transitions page.
Examples from Bath
Civil Engineering’s Phase 1 Curriculum Transformation evidence shows their full lifecycle approach to supporting the needs of all learners, including careful consideration of attainment differentials; they want to look at cultural awareness development and global outlook, have made links between assessment/outcomes data and between academic progression/outcomes and entry qualifications, and have made an explicit commitment to reviewing entry requirements.
Maths incorporated discussions about attainment differentials into their Phase 2/3 curriculum design workshop as part of Curriculum Transformation. Their departmental chair of Equality and Diversity committee, their Outreach Officer and the CLT’s Curriculum Development Officer (Inclusion) proposed actions that link curriculum with attainment.
Practical resources to explore attainment differentials
A 2021 AdvanceHE report analysing 2019/20 outcomes across the sector provides information on ethnicity degree outcomes differentials. This is the first dedicated report which explores ethnicity awarding gaps in detail across individual and course-level characteristics.
AdvanceHE point to the Universities UK and NUS Closing the Gap report (2019) for a range of case-studies of interventions to address inequalities in BAME vs White student attainment in UK institutions. Curriculum delivery and design are identified in the research as two key contributing factors to the ethnicity attainment gap (based on institutional responses). AHE encourage institutions to learn from the case studies that best fit their individual circumstances.
The Office for Students funded research on Active Collaborative Learning for Student Success to scale up active, collaborative learning across three institutions in an effort to improve student success and address unexplained attainment gaps (the specific impact on attainment differentials is on pp.21-33).