Race to the Top: the Experiences of Black Students in Higher Education is the first in a series of reports looking at the experiences of particular groups from non-traditional backgrounds within Higher Education and the challenges faced by that group in gaining employment.

This first report focuses on the experiences of Black students from African & Caribbean backgrounds and is theresult of a nationwide consultation, which took place over a two-year period and engaged over 2500 students.

Samuel Kasumu, the founder and trustee of Elevation Networks tells us more about Elevation Networks and the report

1.      So you’re the founder of Elevation Networks (EN). Can you tell us a little about the organisation

It is a social enterprise set up to tackle youth unemployment within the UK, and to help to give a stronger voice to groups that are underrepresented in society today.

2.      EN has recently published a target paper called “Race to the Top The Experience of Black Students in Higher Education”. What was the motivation behind writing the paper?

It is the first of a series of reports around social mobility, and our motivation was the simple fact that there was no research that we felt went beyond the statistics. In fact, some statistics were unpublished and/ or unknown to the general public.

We also felt that race equality was monopolised by a single group of very left leaning political figures, and we wanted to open up the conversation.

3.      Are there 2 or 3 main themes which run throughout the report?

1. That African/ Caribbean students are underrepresented at top universities, which has a great effect on their employment outcomes

2. African/ Caribbean students feel that industries like government, financial services, and fashion, have very serious racial barriers

3. There is a great knowledge gap that seriously hinders a BME young person’s ability to compete in the labour market

4.      How do you see the future of higher education going for Black students in the UK

I see it being great. Although the report delivered a lot of bad news, there has been progress and there is hope. Black students are over represented in Higher Education, is just that their not at the best institutions and are not making the best academic choices.

In time I do believe that this will change, but everyone must take responsibility in helping to make this happen.

5.      Are the findings in the paper strictly a ‘Black’ issue?

No. We found that most ethnic minorities suffered some form of inequality of outcome, however the Black community was worth focusing on as at times they were amongst the ethnic minorities with the worst outcomes.

We felt that it would be too broad to focus on all ethnic communities as ultimately there are moments when their outcomes are different

6.      In the report you talk about “Finding common ground: defining Black Identity” – Do you think the impact of Afro-Caribbean culture on the UK has blurred the lines on what is ‘black’ today?

I’m not sure that I would say it’s blurred the lines as race is very much a social construct. It’s a form of identity that is developed both organically and by those with the power to influence. The issue with defining black is that it has a lot more variables to it than other communities.

We know that a person from China is chinese, and we rarely group them with other South East Asian communities. However people who are Black have various backgrounds, which means there will always be a friction when attempting to create a uniform definition.

What we do know however is that there is a shared experience that most Black people within the UK have.

7.      Where can we find out more about the report?

The report can be found here: www.elevationnetworks.org/research

We’re happy to hear from anyone that would like to comment on the report or has any further questions