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The experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic student midwives at a UK university

02 May 2022
26 min read
Volume 30 · Issue 5

Abstract

Background

Evidence acknowledges inequalities to progression and achievement for black, Asian and minority ethnic students within higher education, as well as barriers for promotion of black, Asian and minority ethnic staff within the NHS. In the UK, legislation and regulatory guidance requires students studying undergraduate midwifery to undertake their programme across both these institutions.

Aims

To understand the experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic students studying undergraduate midwifery at a UK university.

Methods

This qualitative study used semi-structured interviews with five student midwives who identified as black, Asian or minority ethnic from a university, conducted by a peer researcher. Thematic analysis was used to analyse anonymised transcript data.

Results

Three key themes were identified: ‘invisibility’, ‘emerging visibility’ and ‘managing visibility’. Participants experienced a monocultural focus in the curriculum and in practice and were exposed to racist behaviours, causing them to modify behaviours.

Conclusions

A need for diverse teaching materials and cultural inclusivity across institutions was identified to help combat outdated systemic Eurocentric practices and support the implementation of recently published midwifery standards.

The ‘closing the gap’ report highlighted that ‘42% of [black, Asian and minority ethnic] students did not feel that the curriculum reflected issues of diversity, equality and discrimination reporting a lack of [black, Asian and minority ethnic] specific content as a mainstream way of thinking’ (Universities UK and National Union of Students, 2019). The report highlighted that black, Asian and minority ethnic students continue to be 13% less likely to be awarded a first- or upper-second class degree than white students (Universities UK and National Union of Students, 2019). A quarter of black, Asian and minority ethnic staff working in UK universities reported that they had experienced racism and one in 20 black, Asian and minority ethnic students cited racial harassment as the reason for leaving their studies (Equality and Human Rights Commission, 2019).

Of the 1.3 million people employed within the NHS, less than a quarter of staff (22.1%) are from black, Asian and minority ethnicities (NHS Digital, 2020). Workforce race equality standards capture key performance indicators for equality, diversity and inclusion and a recent comparison of data over the past 5 years shows limited progress in the NHS's ambitions to drive down systemic inequalities between white and black, Asian and minority ethnic staff (Issar, 2021). Against some indicators, the situation for black, Asian and minority ethnic staff has even seen a deterioration, highlighting the fact that inequalities persist (Pendleton, 2017; Ross et al, 2020) and in some cases are widening.

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