What 'Race' Has to Do With It: A Student Perspective on Experience inside British Higher Education (Presentation Slides)

14 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2019

Date Written: February 12, 2008


All but absent from academic literatures at the time of this inquiry were candid accounts of lived experience inside British Higher Education as articulated through the lens and voices of students of Black African-Caribbean heritage.

In official documentary sources, where the presence in British Higher of students of Minority Ethnic heritage was acknowledged, data about the population tended to be aggregated and discussed in terms of undifferentiated data sets (Allen, 1998; Bird, Ching Yee and Myler, 1992; Davis, 1994, Higher Education Statistics Agency, 1997-1999; Metcalfe 1993). These records also signalled the limited possibility of Black African-Caribbean students completing or attaining Higher Education outcomes on par with their majority background peers. But evidentially rare were sustained official attempts to interrogate the nature of these findings or the influences that had given rise to them. The few attempts to do so seldom moved beyond fairly rudimentary statistical associations with school leaving examination scores and literacy assessments (c.f. Modood and Shiner, 1994).

The following presentation outlines interim findings from an exploratory inquiry which employed a qualitative data handling strategy. This approach offered opportunities for Black African-Caribbean Higher Education (HE) students to tell their education related stories in their own words and on their own terms. Participants were also offered the option of being as closely involved in the framing and direction of the rest of the inquiry as a formally assessed doctoral programme would permit in the late 1990s.

Outlined is what Black African-Caribbean heritage students’ say their perceptions are of significant experiences, from inside the HE academy, which had the greatest potential to undermine their Higher Education aspirations.

36 students were interviewed in 2 cohorts across 6 Higher Education institutions during the mid 1990s and mid 2000s. The students offered narratives of experience from which it was possible to identify recurring themes. They perceived critical moments that adversely defined them as ‘raced’, and/or pathologised them as ‘othered’. They recounted experiences which invalidated their world views and the knowledges that had sustained their sense of self. They were able to articulate experiences which served to promote or hinder the aspirations that had taken then into Higher Education.

The exploratory inquiry offered useful insights into:

sector related and institutional policy, professional and pedagogical practices as well as research practices that had so comprehensively obscured the issues discussed by the students;

the close attention to ontological, epistemological and methodological challenge and alignment required whilst framing the main part of the doctoral study.

In summary, the inquiry highlighted sites of attention we may need to prioritise in future if we are to improve Higher Education experiences and eliminate disparities of outcome and benefit for students of Black African-Caribbean heritage.

Keywords: belonging; Black African-Caribbean students; Black Perspectives; Higher Education; exploratory research; epistemology; Race; ontology; ‘othering’; pedagogy, policy and practice; methodology; narratives of experience; student voice; worldview

JEL Classification: B52; I121; I123; I124; I128; Y3; Y4; Y6; Y8; Z18

Suggested Citation

Williamson, Carol, What 'Race' Has to Do With It: A Student Perspective on Experience inside British Higher Education (Presentation Slides) (February 12, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3436457 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3436457

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