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The influence of ethnicity on assessments and academic progression in a midwifery degree

02 February 2024
Volume 32 · Issue 2



Midwifery degrees require students to study for 3 years, during which they are assessed both academically and in practice placements. This study's aim was to explore year-by-year associations between assessment grades and students' ethnicity as they progressed through their degree.


Retrospective data collected at a single university in the UK were analysed using descriptive statistics. The cohort and variables were stratified by student ethnicity, year of study and assessment grades given for academic work and placement practice assessments.


While Black, Asian and minority ethnic students started with lower practice assessment grades in year 1, this improved such that there was no difference in attainment by year 3. In contrast, university academic grades were consistently lower for Black, Asian and minority ethnic versus White students, and this pattern did not change throughout the degree programme.


The likely factor in lower final degree outcomes among Black, Asian and minority ethnic students is not from practice assessments but academic performance. Targeted interventions that recognise different learning styles and educational experiences in the university environment may address and improve this inequality in attainment.

The student population in higher education is becoming more ethnically diverse. Since 2003/2004, the proportion of White students has been steadily decreasing alongside a year-on-year increase of those identifying as Black, Asian and minority ethnic (Advance Higher Education (AHE), 2022). However, it is widely documented across all sectors that Black, Asian and minority ethnic students are less likely to achieve final first class/2:1 degrees at UK universities than their White counterparts (, 2022, AHE, 2022).

Over recent years, the UK government has demanded improvements to do more to close the gap in final grades. Reasons for the gap are multifactorial and are likely to include structural, organisational, financial and cultural attitudes (Singh, 2011; AHE, 2022). The ‘closing the gap’ report (Universities UK and National Union of Students, 2019) highlighted that there is an urgency to improve the curriculum of all university courses to address issues of diversity, equality and discrimination. Midwifery educators and stakeholders are being urged to decolonise midwifery education by removing the Eurocentric lens that currently dominates most curriculums (Royal College of Midwives (RCM), 2023).

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