VP Education Kate Roberts recaps her campaign week as she looks to ensure that the academic interests of all students from all backgrounds are represented at Royal Holloway.
My Inclusive Education campaign is dedicated to increasing the visibility of this cause and highlighting where students are experiencing disparity in their educational experience purely due to their backgrounds or personal characteristics.
This discussion has been put on the radar within higher education due to a number of national discourses prompted through both national regulatory bodies such as the Office for Students (OfS) introducing 5-year Access and Participation Plans, and student-led movements such as campaigns which led to the publishing of National Union of Students (NUS) and Universities UK's (UUK) Closing The Gap report last year.
Every University was asked by OfS to publish a 5-year Access and Participation Plan, detailing current gaps in access, success (attainment) and progression to further study or graduate employment, alongside setting themselves targets for when they will have reduced and eliminated these gaps. If you are interested in reading Royal Holloway’s plan you can find it here. Myself and VP Welfare & Diversity Lucy Simpson sit on the Delivery Group for monitoring actions taken to achieve the targets set in this plan, with President Jack O'Neill attending the Steering Group overseeing the governance of the plan as a whole.
Alongside this, at the Students’ Union, we have just finished our year and a half long research work into the experience of BAME students at Royal Holloway which has formed our first policy inquiry and Student Voice Report. Through this work, it became clear to me that there is still so much to be done to ensure all students at Royal Holloway have parity in their educational experience. Listening to the experiences and voices of you as students was a huge prompt in running this campaign and lobbying to ensure recommendations of this report are implemented by the University.
To me, ‘inclusive education’ means teaching in a way that respects the diversity of students, enables all students to take part in learning and fulfil their potential, ensures different students’ learning needs and preferences are met, regardless of their backgrounds, learning styles or abilities, and removes any barriers that prevent students from learning.
The aim of this campaign is to celebrate the diversity of our student population, examine ways in which the University can be more inclusive to all students, and understand how we in our different roles and positions can be champions of inclusive education and provide the space for this topic to be heard.
The campaign kicked off with a video showing students giving their take on inclusive education and reacting to a number of statistics. In this video, we showed you that there is an 11% attainment or awarding gap between Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students and White students at Royal Holloway. This is the ‘unexplained gap’ in students obtaining 1st and 2:1 degrees, taking into account previous qualifications, grades at entry and other aspects of a students’ background. When we look at the gap between Black and White students this rises to 15%. Have a look at how students reacted to these statistics and others here.
The week kicked off with an ‘Inclusivi-Tea’ - held down in Tommy’s Lounge on Monday afternoon, I provided students with free tea, coffee, and biscuits whilst we got chatting about what inclusive education means to them, and how they felt the University could be made more inclusive. One student said to them inclusive education means "education that gives all people a wide understanding of many aspects of life" while another said "equal opportunity and aids to allow those who need it to be involved". On the topic of what could be done, there were numerous suggestions ranging from, "optimising support" and a "broader variety of topics and opportunities" to the work of groups such as our newly formed Collectives and introducing training relating to ‘unconscious bias’ and being an ‘active bystander’. Thank you to everyone who came along and got involved!
On Monday evening we welcomed Dr. Amy Tooth Murphy from the History department to give a workshop on Queer Histories. We looked at both the political history of the rights and acceptance of queer people within the UK alongside delving further into the lived experience of queer people in the past and how this can be communicated to wider audiences through public histories, such as the campaign run by the National Trust in 2017 entitled ‘Prejudice and Pride’. Thank you to all the students who came along, we found it a brilliantly informative and engaging session. A huge thank you to Dr. Tooth Murphy for leading such a great workshop!
If you didn’t know about Academic Rep Conference, where have you been?! On Wednesday we held our annual student conference where we discussed all things Inclusive Education. You can find out more about the sessions in my round-up here. We discussed the BAME Awarding Gap, the concept of Learning and Unlearning, Imposter Syndrome, LGBT+ Inclusivity, what it means to be a ‘normal’ Royal Holloway student, and how the University could adapt their concept of ‘normal’ to better provide for the changing demographic of students we see at Royal Holloway today, and so much more! Thank you to everyone who came along and those who were involved in creating and running the day.
We are extremely proud to have launched our first Student Voice Report at Academic Rep Conference. After a year and a half of work, we've published an extensive report that collates all of our research into the experience of BAME students at Royal Holloway. It addresses Royal Holloway’s current BAME attainment gap and the University’s plans to reduce it, the various ways we engaged with the BAME student community about the project, and 25 recommendations which we hope will have a substantial and long-lasting positive impact on the current and prospective student experience at Royal Holloway.
Read the report
On Thursday morning, myself and Lucy were invited to a roundtable discussion hosted by James Knowles, Senior Vice-Principal Education at the University, to talk all things inclusive education and share the Student Voice Report with senior academic and professional services staff. We started by providing the context of why this work needed to happen alongside sharing some key recommendations of the report. Attendees asked fantastic questions and seemed really engaged to delve further into the report and start making changes to improve the experience of BAME students. The session also looked at upcoming projects which will improve the inclusivity of education and welcomed discussion and input from staff on where this work should go next. This will all be fed into the University’s new strategy which is currently in development, and we have succeeded in putting inclusive education firmly on the agenda.
Thank you so much to anyone who attended any of the events this week or got engaged in the campaign. This is just the start of making your educational experience more inclusive and we will continue to update you with developments, especially in relation to implementation of the recommendations given in the Student Voice Report. But, for now, this is me signing off from a very busy week and looking forward to continuing this work!
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