Causes of differential attainment (DA) are complex and poorly understood. A 2015 Higher Education Funding Council England report identified four broad categories of causal factors operating at a national policy (macro) level, an institutional (meso) level, and at an interpersonal (micro) level to impede UK BME students’ performance.
A research group commissioned by the GMC (Woolf et al, 2016) looked for evidence that differential attainment was caused by factors in the following four categories.
- Curricula, teaching, learning and assessment: different trainee groups indicate varying degrees of satisfaction with the HE curricula, and with the user-friendliness of learning, teaching and assessment practices.
- Trainee relationships at work: regarding relationships between senior doctors and trainees, a sense of ‘belonging’ emerged as a key determinant of trainee outcomes.
- Psychosocial and identity factors: the extent to which trainees feel supported and encouraged in their daily interactions within their institutions, and with staff members, was found to be a key variable. Such interactions can both facilitate and limit trainees’ learning and attainment.
- Social capital: the ability to form connections with social groups outside one's own. Recurring differences in how trainees experience higher education, how they network and how they draw on external support were noted. Trainees’ financial situation also affects their student experience and their engagement with learning.