“You never feel so Black as when you're contrasted against a White background”: Black students' experiences at a predominantly White institution in the UK

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“Old” universities in the UK are typically populated with White middle-class students who hail from White majority hometowns, whilst “new” universities have more diverse cohorts from diverse hometowns. Our research conducted with 17 Black students at a predominantly White university, examined the initial encounters in which Black students first realise their minority status on campus. We found that White numerical dominance combined with White students' racialised place-based assumptions about who belongs where, had an immediate and powerful impact on our participants. Importantly, our findings suggest that for Black students coming from diverse hometowns, experiences such as being the only Black person in lecture halls, being told that you are the first Black person your peers have met, and being expected to use urban street slang and sell drugs constituted both a denial of their student identity and a misrecognition of their Black identity. Our analysis highlights the importance of considering the diversity within institutions alongside Black and White students' place-based histories with diversity; and how these are consequential for Black students' experiences of (mis)recognition and (non)belonging on campuses. Please refer to the Supplementary Material section to find this article's Community and Social Impact Statement.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Early online date6 Apr 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Apr 2021


  • belonging
  • black students
  • higher education
  • misrecognition
  • place
  • race
  • social identities
  • university

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science

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