Decolonisation and diversification of the curriculum in UK business schools

Rachael Carden, Sally Everett, Kenisha Linton

Research output: Other contributionpeer-review



Students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are well represented in UK higher education institutions (HEIs), but their retention, attainment and progression are significantly lower than that of White students. Consequently, HEIs have been challenged to move beyond access or equality of opportunity, and instead to focus on student success and equality of outcome (AdvanceHE 2022; McDuff and Barefoot 2016; Office for Students 2021). Consequently, decolonisation and diversification* of the curriculum have emerged as vital initiatives to address historical inequalities within the academic sphere.

A key area for student success in UK business schools is closing the BAME awarding gap, also referred to as the ‘degree attainment’ gap - defined as the disparity in degree outcomes between UK-domiciled full-time first-degree students from BAME backgrounds and their White counterparts (UUK, 2022). What continues to hold true is the persistent, statistically unexplained nature of the gap, i.e., even after controlling for other factors (entry qualifications, age, disability, gender, subject studied, school attended and an area participation measure), ethnicity is still statistically significant to the outcomes of a degree award, and it is problematic to determine causality with respect to any single factor (HEFCE, 2015).

The degree awarding gap has remained relatively static at 13% but decreased to 9 percentage points in 2020/21. However, in 2021/22 the gap increased again to 11% (OfS, 2023). The decreases in 2020 to 2021 possibly reflect increased use of coursework and continuous exams to determine qualification awards, and the ‘no detriment’ policies adopted by many HEIs to accommodate for the impact of Covid-19 on students’ performance and experience. Universities UK (UUK) and the National Union of Students (NUS) (2019) argued that universities’ approaches to closing the BAME awarding gap will not succeed unless they are underpinned by strong leadership, with university leaders and senior managers taking personal responsibility for change. We explored to what extent this is happening with the decolonisation and diversification work being undertaken in UK business schools.

*It is important to note that decolonisation and diversification are different concepts and processes. Decolonisation entails dismantling colonial forms of educational practice and knowledge. Diversity is often about adding resources and examples to ensure teaching materials better reflect the staff and student body.
Original languageEnglish
TypeResearch survey
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2023


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