Understanding the ‘degree awarding gap’ in geography, planning, geology and environmental sciences in UK higher education through peer research

Shivani Singh*, Jessica Pykett, Peter Kraftl, Abdourahamane Guisse, Edward Hodgson, Uma Elena Humelnicu, Natasha Keen, Sarah Kéïta, Niamh McNaney, Alice Menzel, Kouadio N’dri, Kouamé Junior N’goran, Grace Oldknow, Raïssa Tiéné, William Weightman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Downloads (Pure)


This paper draws on critical race theory to analyse testimonies from students that help explain why minoritised ethnic communities studying geography, planning, geology and environmental sciences in the UK, have a lesser chance of being awarded a ‘good’ degree (i.e. an upper second- or first-class), in comparison to White British people. There are very low levels of ethnic diversity across these subject areas. We conducted peer research, including student-led semi-structured interviews at one British university over a five-month period (involving 38 participants in total). Our analysis explores the processes of minoritisation owing to cultures of Whiteness. These relate to teaching and learning spaces, off-campus encounters, university societies, student representation/committees, social interactions, part-time employment and caring responsibilities. We conclude with a call for action to reframe and disassemble the ‘degree awarding gap’ through student and staff co-design of policies and actions that will not only confront, but also subvert exclusionary cultures of Whiteness in its various manifestations across university life.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-247
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Geography in Higher Education
Issue number2
Early online date29 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Alumni Impact Fund and Guild of Students. First and foremost, this project would not have been possible without the students, so we are extremely grateful for their hard work and courage. We would also like to sincerely thank Dr Patricia Noxolo, Dr Surindar Dhesi, Dr Sarah Greene, Wai Tung Ng and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable feedback.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Degree awarding gap
  • ethnicity
  • international students
  • minoritisation
  • student experiences
  • Whiteness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Understanding the ‘degree awarding gap’ in geography, planning, geology and environmental sciences in UK higher education through peer research'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this