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Cambridge Centre for Teaching and Learning


The previous section provided an overview of what we know about awarding gaps from available statistical data: we have identified that these gaps exist, across the sector and within Cambridge, although the reason for these gaps has been unclear. This section focuses on the work underway to investigate the reasons for the awarding gaps that affect, in particular, disabled students with declared mental health conditions and Black British undergraduates, our current priorities.

The report on the Analysis of Student Characteristics and Attainment Outcomes at the University of Cambridge (BIT, 2020) notes that the awarding gap for the two prioritised groups (Black students and students with declared mental health conditions) remains unexplained by the factors included in the statistical analysis:

“The fact that the lower outcomes for these groups persisted in the multivariate models where other factors were controlled for indicates that underlying causes of the difference remain partially unexplained by the variables included in this study and that intervention work needs to focus on exploring “softer” less numerical attributes related to teaching and learning practices.”

BIT 2020 p.13

The report concludes with speculations that these other factors might include those which are intrinsically harder to measure quantitatively, such as parental attributes (level of education and income), study behaviour, peer-group interactions, levels of self-confidence, participation in extra-curricular activities, content of educational activities, as well as different forms and types of assessment.

Thus, qualitative research to collect and analyse 'softer' data is increasingly acknowledged as vital both to understand the reasons for the awarding gaps and to identify strategies to address them.



  1. What the sector says
  2. What Cambridge students say
  3. Assessment and awarding gaps
  4. The deficit approach
  5. The hidden curriculum