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Film highlights BAME student attainment gap

Posted on 12 June 2019

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A film about the attainment gap of BAME university students is being filmed at Leeds Trinity University this week.

Re:tension is a 20 minute short film following the story of 19-year old Thapelo, a university student wrestling with the idea of whether or not to report racism at his university after an incident with his football teammates.

It is written, directed and produced by Ricardo Barker, a professional documentary and filmmaker and Senior Lecturer in Film Production at Leeds Trinity University.

Ricardo said: "The attainment gap for BAME students within the higher education sector is, unfortunately, pointing towards institutional racism, unconscious bias and micro-aggression at universities across the UK. Re:tension highlights what this looks like in real-life, from the perspective of an 19-year old, a BAME university student, someone who doesn't know exactly how to deal with the banter, or insult, they've just witnessed. It's a powerful story, told by Thapelo but focusing on those closest to him – his friends, family members, peers and lecturers."

Re:tension has been supported financially by Leeds Trinity University which also provides the set for the two-week film shoot starting this week. Alongside professional actors, Ricardo has enlisted the support of 15 student crew members and in-house production company Trinity Vision to support with the shoot.

Ricardo added: "I'm pleased to be able to highlight such an important message through the power of film and work closely with our students, alongside professional actors, to create Re:tension."

Ricardo's vision for Re:tension is to provide a resource for universities to use when discussing institutional racism, unconscious bias and the impact this can have on retention and attainment for BAME students. Despite it being filmed at Leeds Trinity, the University is deliberately not mentioned so the film can be accessed and used by other universities.

Professor Ray Lloyd, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Leeds Trinity University, said: "We are committed to ensuring that all our students achieve to their full potential and removing the attainment gap, which is completely at odds with our mission and values.  Part of the process in eliminating the gap is to speak openly and honestly about the experience of BAME students at Leeds Trinity University, as well as the national picture. This is a conversation that all universities should be having, and we believe Ricardo's film will provide a powerful tool in developing that conversation."

Once filming has finished, the film is expected to be complete by the end of August 2019. It will then be launched at the University, submitted for film festivals, and circulated to other universities across the country.

Nationally, of those students graduating in 2017, 57% of black students and 71% of Asian students achieved a first or 2:1, compared to 81% of white students. At Leeds Trinity University, in 2017, 79.5% of BAME students achieved a first or 2:1, compared to 78.9% of white students – however over the last three years, a lower proportion of BAME students have achieved a first or 2:1 than white students overall.

In May 2019, a new report by Universities UK (UUK) and the National Union of Students (NUS) concluded that all UK universities must demonstrate their commitment to university-wide change to eliminate the BAME student attainment gap in UK higher education.