There are a plethora of ethnicities described by the term BAME. However, with regards to higher education it is crucial to distinguish which groups, if any are participating less well than others.
Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show that there were 4% of United Kingdom (UK) domiciled Black (African, Caribbean and Other) students studying medicine and dentistry in 2014/2015, (including postgraduate and undergraduate students) in comparison to 3.0% of the UK population being classified as ‘Black’. With regards to the Asian population, 27.8% of Asian students were studying medicine and dentistry in the same year in comparison to just 7% of the UK population being classified as ‘Asian’. Perhaps this over-representation of more ethnic minorities choosing medicine (dentistry and law) represents their feelings about the possible discrimination when applying for jobs.
However, when we look at the BAME community individually, we see that there are a number of stark differences. When the term ‘Black’ is broken down into the various sub-groups we see that there were 0.5% of Black Caribbean, 3.4% of Black African and 0.1% of Black ‘other’ students studying medicine and dentistry that year. According to the most recent 2011 Census there were 3.0% of Black African and Caribbean people in the UK, with 1.7% categorized as Black African. Therefore, Black Caribbean students are significantly under-represented in Medicine and Dentistry. When the term ‘Asian’ is deconstructed we see that 13.2 students studying medicine and dentistry were of Indian descent in comparison to 5.8% of Pakistani descent. This is despite there being similar numbers of these groups within the UK population. Similarly, 1.3% of Bangladeshi and 2.6% of Chinese UK domiciled students studied medicine and dentistry that year despite there being similar numbers of these two sub-groups within the UK population. There are several reasons for these differences, from socio-economic factors to culture and parenting.
There were 6.6% of students classified as ‘other’ ethnicity which includes those of mixed ethnicities. Again, as a whole there is an over-representation when compared to the UK population but it is important to recognise once again that there are many ethnicities within this group so some may be performing less well than others.
When we look at the number of doctors that are classified as BME origin we observe similar patterns. In fact, one could argue that you need over-representation based on the fact that BME medical students perform less well than their white counterparts and there are less BAME professionals in the upper echelons of certain professions including medicine.
Therefore, for an improvement generalisations should not made across all the BAME sub-groups. The term BAME may be unhelpful when addressing the issues facing the various BAME communities in education and in particular, higher education.
There needs to be a collective effort if we are to help more students. A good start is by continuing to recognise that there are many different ethnicities within the BAME umbrella term and that everyone may not be performing to the same level. It is imperative that we are not complacent, over- rather than under-representation is positive and should be maintained. Moreover, instead of complaining about the disparity, we should be finding solutions, but not just for one group, for all groups of students requiring support and at all levels within education.
One of the solutions is the right guidance and ongoing support for students. At DreamSmartTutors we not only aim to provide students with the crucial support they need but we educate them about what doctors do so that they can make their own decision based on all the facts presented. We deliver high quality one day courses where students can meet doctors and medical students. We also provide one-to-one tuition and mentoring with medical students and I personally tutor and mentor students too which helps give them an insight to the medical school curriculum and working as a doctor.
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