Understanding the Impact of Covid-19 on Ethnic Minority Students: a Case Study of Open University Level 1 Computing Modules

Kbaier, Dhouha; Kouadri Mostéfaoui, Soraya and Kane, Annemarie (2023). Understanding the Impact of Covid-19 on Ethnic Minority Students: a Case Study of Open University Level 1 Computing Modules. In: International Higher Education Teaching & Learning Association (HETL) Conference 2023. Re-Imagining Education: Collaboration and Compassion, 12-14 Jun 2023, Aberdeen.

URL: https://www.abdn.ac.uk/events/documents/HETL%20Abs...


As reported in [1] ‘Of the disparities that exist within higher education, the gap between the likelihood of White students and students from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds getting a first- or upper-second-class degree is among the starkest’. In the Open University (OU) for example, a recent research [2] found students from ethnic minorities to be at least 20% less likely to achieve excellent grades and to spend 4-12% more of study time to achieve the same performance as white students. Moreover, with the advent of COVID-19, a growing body of research suggested that students from these groups of the population, suffer disproportionally from the impacts of the pandemic [3], which inevitably impacts on their study experiences. However, recent research in the OU found that some COVID-19 arrangements such as the change of examination mode and change in work-life patterns have impacted students from ethnic minority backgrounds differently. In this paper we present findings from a project aiming to understand the impact of COVID-19 on ethnic minority students’ study experiences and performance. By means of a combination of qualitative and quantitative data analytics we first analysed the study performance and the patterns of progression, then by conducting focus groups with the teaching staff we assessed the impact of COVID-19 on the lived experiences of the students.

[1] Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Student Attainment at UK Universities (2022). Available at: https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk.

[2] Nguyen Q., Rienties B. Richardson J.T.E. (2020) Learning analytics to uncover inequality in behavioural engagement and academic attainment in a distance learning setting, Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 45:4, 594-606.

[3] Arday, J. and Jones, C. (2022) “Same storm, different boats: The impact of covid-19 on black students and academic staff in UK and US higher education,” Higher Education. Available at:

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