Last year, NUS released a report highlighting deep institutional barriers for Black and Minority Ethnic students in Further and Higher Education. Findings in ‘Race for Equality’ show that 1 in 6 BME students have experienced racism in their current institution, one third do not trust their institution to properly handle complaints, and one third feel their educational environment leaves them unable to bring their perspective as BME students to lectures and tutorial meetings.
The findings show that a simple explanation for the attainment and satisfaction gap of BME students does not exist; it is a complex issue with a range of causal factors. Although the BME student population is a highly heterogeneous group, the research identifies and highlights common concerns among BME students, which are clearly linked to their attainment and overall satisfaction yet often overlooked by institutions.
The exclusion of BME students extended beyond explicit experiences of racism: 17% of respondents felt their teaching and learning environment isolated them, 23% felt it was cliquey, and 8% felt it was hostile. Many interviewees also highlighted a Euro-centric curriculum and the lack of BME role models within their institution as further challenges. (source: NUS).
Over Thursday and Friday, I will be contributing to the Higher Education Academy (HEA) Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students learning and teaching summit at the Midland Hotel, Manchester.
The summit will look at the impact of the curriculum (in the broadest sense) to BME student retention and success in higher education, and the implications for policy, practice and further research.
The summit will be attended by around 40 people, consisting of senior university managers and national experts. Myself and Malia Bouattia will be representing the National Union of Students.
Evidence will be collected and presented at the summit and future actions and priorities will be agreed. A final report of the evidence and recommendations will be prepared for use by the higher education (HE) sector and the Higher Education Academy.
Throughout the event, I plan to draw attention to six areas I feel impact on BME student retention and success; the impact of previous educational barriers, BME student voice in teaching and learning, the effect of a negative institutional environment, the impact of the attainment gap, BME student experience and BME experiences in moving into further learning and/or the labour market.
Today, the University has announced that it has created plans for a new ‘Employability Academy’ to change Swansea University’s approach to careers.
Beyond the obvious re-branding of current services to fit this new academy, there is a genuine move away from the current approach to a system that decentralises the careers services in principle. Whilst this is excellent, we need to consider the bread and butter that will allow such a structure to deliver for students and to keep services sustainable in the long term.
There are still only 3.5 careers advisors trying to stretch their services to 15000 students. All that the University have done is appoint one senior lecturer from each school as an ‘Employability Champion.’ With a team of current teaching staff, these champions will focus on ‘enhancing work placement opportunities, developing entrepreneurial skills and supporting enterprise.’
Beyond the fancy words, we need to consider if this will actually translate into a better service or if it is just a flash in the pan that’ll pay lip service to employability for next year’s prospectus. Worryingly, when we look at the proposals, there are no plans to increase resources or staffing levels to support these Employability Champions actually deliver a careers service.
This week, with zero support from careers services, approximately 50-100 students from different backgrounds looking to get onto Graduate Entry Medicine will have paid (out of their own pockets) on average of £250 for an external exam, course materials and private tuition to get onto their next programme of study. Many students will also submit applications to highly competitive graduate schemes without a professional second opinion on their application. Other Universities either provide financial support or at least a more comprehensive careers services that support their students on their journey from University to employment / further learning.
I can see how this new structure will definitely be more efficient at identifying such issues. However I can’t see how it’ll be able to deal with the problems. With a visible lack of dedicated careers advisors and with no resources – how many students will receive enough support to get on to their preferred career? What proportion of students will have to fork out money for extra resources or support? How much will this cost on average? The Students Union must start asking these questions.
The Students’ Union needs to get real about employability, challenge the rhetoric and win more staff support to match the growing demand for careers support. The University needs to stop talking about student voice and start acting on it.
Zahid has a plan for your education and I know we can trust him to deliver on it.
He has been one of the union’s most committed officers and volunteers for a number of years so he’s absolutely the right person for the job.
Zahid has a proven track record of fighting for students locally and nationally and has the respect of people throughout the student movement.
We need an education officer who is both active on the ground, involving students in the union’s work and respected by the University.