It might sound dramatic, but I have often likened my experience of hearing about how black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students do worse than their white peers at university to the five stages of grief.
There was the initial shock and denial that there could be any discrepancy between my white student peers and myself in achieving a first or upper 2:1 class degree. Surely this gap would vanish if entry requirements, subjects, and socio-economic backgrounds were all accounted for?
When I saw that a 13% gap persisted even after other factors were controlled for, I felt frustration and anger. I could not imagine how universities had allowed this to happen. As BAME students, we expect that if we put in the hard work, we should get good grades.
There comes a point in every education where hard work isn’t the thing any more. There really is a stage at which aptitude, innate intelligence, skill, perhaps, is what is being tested.
Different systems might have this at different stages, from the whining schoolboy having to do Greek to the post-doc student having to actually some up with some new knowledge. But we really are trying – the point of the system being – to sort between those who simply work hard at it and those who are good at it.
This is, of course, nothing to do with BAME. Uncovering talent is uncovering talent irrespective of culture, nationality and melanin content. But to fail to grasp that it ain’t about studiousness at some point in the process is to have failed to grasp the point of the system itself.