Experiences of Global Ethnic Majority Students in UK Higher Education: Evaluating Multiple Theoretical Frameworks to Understand the Ethnic Majority Awarding Gap

Patrice Seuwou*, Hylandah Chepkurui, Nathan Dodzo, Michael Opoku Agyeman

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to Book/ReportConference Contributionpeer-review


An award gap between Global Ethnic Majority (GEM) and White students has been an issue in UK higher education (HE) since the 1990s and its persistence overtime has motivated a lot of research. Many studies, however, have focused on UK-domiciled GEM students thus creating a knowledge gap on GEM International students. Additionally, recent findings offer insight into only a part of the equation by attributing poor performance in GEM students to unmet psychological needs of relatedness, competence, and autonomy based on the principles of self-determination theory (SDT). In including GEM International students and evaluating multiple theoretical frameworks, this study not only addresses the literary gap but also delves deeper to ascertain the most accurate and reliable depiction of the root cause of this phenomenon. The methodology comprised 2 focus groups examining the experiences of 7 GEM students in different courses. Developed themes were based on the theories of cultural deficit, Pierre Bourdieu cultural capital deficit, community cultural wealth, critical race, educability perspective and functionalism perspective. The themes were evaluated against the principles of SDT. Findings revealed discrimination and segregation of GEM students by staff and students alike because of their race. This highlighted critical race theory as a powerful underlying influence over the theories of cultural capital, community wealth and education function. Racism has been ingrained into the society such that its manifestations are admissible in the guise of lack in the GEM individual. This study poses a challenge to education institutions to take responsibility in curtailing racism among its members and thereby ensure suitable learning conditions for GEM students that promote their performance and bridge the award gap.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEDULEARN23 Proceedings
Subtitle of host publication15th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
EditorsLuis Gómez Chova, Chelo González Martínez, Joanna Lees
Place of PublicationValencia, Spain
PublisherInternational Academy of Technology, Education and Development (IATED)
Number of pages8
ISBN (Electronic)978-84-09-52151-7
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2023

Publication series

NameEDULEARN Proceedings
ISSN (Electronic)2340-1117


  • Global Ethnic Majority (GEM)
  • Award gap
  • critical race theory (CRT)
  • self-determination theory
  • Community Cultural Wealth
  • Pierre Bourdieu


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