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ACS Focus Group – The Summary

The ACS Report is an initiative of the African Caribbean Company Limited - Registered in England and Wales No: 07015366
The AC Company conducted a Focus Group of African Caribbean Society members from seven
universities across the United Kingdom – we invited a selected group of black students
representatives from Manchester, Leeds, Leicester, Nottingham, Warwick, UCL and LSE to
attended/participated in the Focus Group at Manchester Business School on Thursday, 17th
June, 2010.

The Focus Group looked into four areas of interest:

1. Life at University
2. Career Ambition
3. Relationship with the African Caribbean Society (ACS)
4. Future of the ACS

Each section required participants to fill out a questionnaire and participate in an open
discussion.

Summary of Focus Group Discussions

The group discussed the reasons for educational achievement and underachievement by black
students at UK universities. According to a review conducted by Julie Tolley and Jill Rundle for
The National BME Education Strategy Group in 2006 and funded by HEFCE, it found that despite
an increase in the representation of Black or Black British student in UK Higher Education
institutions, only 30% of black graduates achieve a First Class or Upper Second Class degree. The
Focus Group discussed reasons for achievement and underachievement in higher education.
The following points were raised:

Reason for educational achievement: Personal goals, drive & motivation, family background,
positive peer competition, career prospect, fear of failure, time management, good study
routine.

Reasons for educational underachievement: social class, procrastination, socializing, financial


pressure, pressure from part-time work, parental influence, lack of advice, role models and
culture shock as no prior family member in some instances had attended university.

A participant said “lack of direction impacts strong educational performance, as


university can be a completely different environment from college… without the right
level of guidance; some people find it challenging to adapt and end up underachieving”

Leeds ACS Mentoring Scheme: A representative from Leeds ACS talked about how their
peer mentoring initiative was changing the experience of new students. They pair
established students with incoming students to help ease their transition from college to
university.

In discussing Career Ambition of black UK students, we highlighted a statistics from the Julie
Tolley and Jill Rundle review of BME participation in HE which showed 13% of black graduates
remain unemployed 6 months after graduation in comparison to 6% of their white counterparts.
We tried to understand the participant’s views on the factors that influence
employment and unemployment after graduation.

Reasons for employment: Relevant work experience, strong academic achievement, attitude &
personality, assimilation, cultural fit.

Reasons for unemployment: Lack of relevant work experience, poor academic performance,
social class, relevance of degree to career interest, types of job, people you know, dominant
culture, current job market.

A participant said “for some sectors, black people don’t expect to get the jobs; as a result
they don’t apply … because they don’t believe it is possible to get in”

When asked what will increase confidence in applying to such jobs, the participant said
“just by seeing black people within the organization will influence my decision and
confidence to apply”.

The Focus Group finally touched on the importance of the African Caribbean Society network
and the participant’s relationship with their university network. A significant number of the
participants were aware of the African Caribbean Society before they got to university (78%)
showing that ACS is popular outside of the university environment. Most of the participants
consider the ACS as a strong socio-cultural group or a group of like minded individuals (53% &
29% respectively), when asked the best way to describe their university ACS. 11% thought the
ACS was ‘just another university society’.

The Focus group concluded with a discussion on the future of ACS. When asked, participants if
they thought a better run ACS can ‘impact on their educational achievement’ (Response; 83%
‘Yes’, 11% ‘Maybe’, 6% ‘No’) and we also asked if a better managed ACS ‘can enhance career
prospects’ (Response; 83% ‘Yes’, 11% ‘Maybe’, 6% ‘No’).

100% of the participants want to see ACS provide more cultural, educational and career focused
events.

One participant said “ACS is about the betterment of the black student, not the social life
of the black student”.

What we are looking for

We want to educate you to educate us to educate society on ways to improve the experience of
black students in the United Kingdom. We plan to conduct a national survey asking similar
questions to black students to establish their needs and help advice our clients and users better.
We welcome contributors and partners from University Career Services, Employers, Education
departments, students and graduates who are interested in better understanding how African
Caribbean Society can best use it scale and reach to positively impact the UK black community.
Write to us @ Minshull House, Chorlton Street Manchester. M1 3FY
Call us @ 0161 921 8185 or 0779 557 6617 E-mail us: hugo.obi@ac-company.co.uk
Visit us: www.ac-company.co.uk and www.africancaribbeansociety.com