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  5. Investigating the impact of ethnicity on student experience in stage 1 and 2 Physical Sciences (PS)-oriented modules

Investigating the impact of ethnicity on student experience in stage 1 and 2 Physical Sciences (PS)-oriented modules

Project leader(s): 
Annika Lohstroh

Overall, less than 40 % of BAME students registered at the first fee liability point pass PS focused modules. In addition, there is an attainment gap of > 10 % for all students with lower prior qualifications and from lower socio economic backgrounds in PS; however national data across all subjects suggest that lower socioeconomic background is not the dominating factor.1 In addition – nationally - part time students are more strongly affected than their full time counterparts.2

This project will investigate (potential) differences relating to ethnicity experienced by Open University (OU) students studying stage 1/2 modules with a PS focus (SM123 – Physics and Space, S217 – Physics: From Classical to Quantum). The findings will inform future strategies to mitigate the negative impact these experiences may have on the current retention and awarding gaps for minority ethnic students in this field.

The initial stage will be the analysis of the influence of ethnicity on retention and progression of SM123 and S217 students. This will take other factors (age, socioeconomic background, concurrency etc) into account, in order to attempt to disentangle interactions between different factors.

In parallel a detailed literature review on relevant topics shall be carried out. Both strands shall inform the development of an online student survey that will be followed by a smaller number of in-depth interviews. The results of the work shall be disseminated within the School and Faculty through appropriate channels. If the work yields promising results, then it can be expanded and adapted to focus on other demographic aspects and subject facing retention gap challenges in the future.

1Office for Students, Differences in student outcomes - Ethnicity available on

(accessed 17th Sept 2020)

2Office for Students, Topic Briefing “Degree attainment: Black, Asian and minority ethnic students” published 27th July 2020, available on (accessed 17th Sept 2020)  

Annika Lohstroh poster (PPTX)