British Muslim Students’ Experience of Higher Education

British Muslim students get comparatively low A Level grades, overwhelmingly enter post-1992 universities (former polytechnics), live at the parental home during term-time, and are decreasingly satisfied with the quality of the higher education which they receive.

These conclusions emerge from a study of 5,523 students (3,555 males, 1,968 females) of Pakistani or Bangladeshi origin and living in the United Kingdom who attended business schools at universities in England and completed the National Student Survey between 2008 and 2010. Business and related studies are one of the most popular subjects for British Muslim university students.

The research is reported in Aftab Dean and Steve Probert, ‘British Muslim Students’ Experience of Higher Education: An Analysis of National Student Survey Results for UK Business Schools’, Perspectives: Teaching Islamic Studies in Higher Education, Issue 2, June 2011, pp. 18-25. This can be accessed at:

Fewer than one in ten of these Muslim business school students achieved high A Level grades, under one-third medium grades and well over one-half low grades. This distribution compared unfavourably with other ethnic minorities (especially Indians and Chinese), although blacks also performed fairly badly.

77% of Muslim students attended post-1992 universities, 4% Russell Group institutions and 19% other pre-1992 universities. There were no major differences between men and women Muslim students. The concentration in post-1992 universities is naturally causally linked with low A Level grades.

Unlike other ethnic minority students, the vast majority of Muslim students (almost two-thirds of the men and three-quarters of the women) lived at home with their parents while studying for their degree. Such Muslim students rated their overall university experience lower than those living in other types of accommodation, particularly private halls. The pedagogical implications of this finding, with particular reference to Muslim women students, are explored in the article’s conclusion.

In general, Muslims also scored their higher education experience as lower than those from other ethnic groups. Overall satisfaction of Muslims decreased over the three surveys, and female Muslims were less content than their male counterparts. Relative to all students and to white students, Muslims were more dissatisfied with their teaching, academic support, and aspects of assessment and feedback. In their summation, the authors highlight the importance of ‘culturally responsive teaching’.

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