BME students should get a 23% discount on student loans.

In January 2016 David Cameron said: “If you’re black, you’re more likely to be in a prison cell than studying at a top university. And if you’re black, it seems you’re more likely to be sentenced to custody for a crime than if you’re white. We should investigate why this is and how we can end this possible discrimination.  There is more chance of a young black man ending up in Jail than going to University”

David Lammy, former MP for Tottenham, and former Minister for Higher Education, has been asked to report on this in 2017. There have been many reports on the reasons why BME (black and minority ethnic) make up some 25% of the prison population, whilst only being 14% of the general population, and nothing seems to have significantly changed since the Scarman report in the 1980s.

Stafford Scott’s  review of  Lammy’s book “Out of the Ashes” (2011) argues: “It's shocking that Lammy has very little to say about the things that really matter in areas such as Tottenham, and indeed matter in terms of the country's future. There's almost nothing about schools and education. Lammy was lucky enough to have had a private education but this should not prevent him from addressing the need for an education system that raises aspiration and gives hope to kids, from places such as Tottenham, that they can achieve despite their disadvantages.”

The second point is that Lammy will report back in 2017, when Cameron is due to vacate his job as Prime Minister so it looks as if the report will be read by as many people as read “Out of the Ashes”. Ironically Theresa May has been very aggressive with police on Stop and Search reform and on the lack of diversity in the police force and the difficulty she has had implementing her policies with the police is evident. She should be given more credit in this area.

We would have preferred to use Lammy’s talents in the Educational arena rather than in the criminal justice system. The report should be concluded this year, 2016, with recommendations that could have a real impact on people lives and incentives for institutions to change. 

If David Lammy were to undertake a review on Education in the UK, we would suggest that the following points be taken into consideration:

• Reach across the political divide and bring in someone like Adam Afriye. This would ensure that any report is not viewed as partisan.

• Ensure that your findings are not London centric. There are some really interesting differences happening in the black community outside the London bubble.

• Please look at the business of Universities and their selection criteria against how they compete to get students in the UK and globally. What incentives are there (if any) for Universities to be more inclusive?

• Look at the curriculum and see how black people are often portrayed in literature in a European context and in terms of the subjects being taught. There are so few UK black stories in literature.

• Is the prospective financial burden the reason why so many BME students fail to complete their courses? Have the recent government changes made it easier or harder to complete courses?

• Understand the perspective and incentives for  black students to study when it usually takes 6 months longer for them to get a job than their white counterparts, and then end up being paid 23% less. 

• Let’s get past the institutional racism statements. Suggestions should be practical, meaningful steps to structurally change the institutions with quotas or affirmative action plans that are quantifiable and transformative. These initiatives don’t need to be permanent; they just need to redress the balance.

• Understand the changing dynamic of the black community and the work alternatives to University that are considered and why. Would it be easier and more lucrative to provide an environment where you can get more respect if one decides to take a more deviant path rather than to conform within a system that does not respect or acknowledge what you can contribute.

• Within that changing dynamic to come up with some analysis of the changing black community, to include the class, gender, religious changes. The community often seems divided more than ever. 

• For those students that are at University, what courses are they attending? We have a severe shortage of students in the jobs of the future – technology, sciences etc. How many Black Chartered Accountants are there in the UK?

 One of many potential recommendations:

• In January 2016 this year the TUC suggested there was a 23% gap in hourly pay between black and white university graduates. Why doesn’t the government give black students a 23% discount on their fees until they address the problem with Universities?

Mr Lammy, we hope the review of the criminal justice system has real teeth but somehow we fear that whatever you recommend, no matter how good, will hold no one’s feet to the fire – will it just be assigned to the ashes?

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