How to improve outcomes for under represented ethnic minority students
On the 15th March, I along with four other students from The University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University attended the Targeting Students from under-represented ethnic backgrounds: Challenges and Solutions Conference in Sheffield as representatives of the Diversity and Wellbeing programme. We were informed on the findings of the OFFA team who had a number of interesting recommendations for Higher Education Institutions such as implementing compulsory staff training on race, racial awareness and anti-racist approaches and holding conversations with students to explore language and terminology such as ‘BME’ or ‘BAME’ which they found can mask inequalities between ethnic groups mask and homogenise approaches which need more nuanced interventions.
I found the experience of meeting with other stakeholders in this issue very beneficial. Being able to interact and hear first-hand about different research projects and initiatives into tackling the problems that under-represented students face was valuable because often as students, we do not get the opportunity to find out what is being done behind the scenes to help achieve progressive change. I particularly enjoyed hearing the stories of two BME women, Bernadette Stiell and Bernadine Idowu-Onibokun who have both managed to overcome the challenges of being students from an under-represented ethnic background and are now actively engaged in social inclusion and diversity in education. Bernadine highlighted the importance of BME role models in higher education which is something I can identify with. I think that creating a better connection between ethnic minority staff and students and encouraging more BME students to pursue a career in higher education will be beneficial for the future generation of young people in search of representation. One of the main issues expressed by Diversity and Wellbeing volunteers was a lack of diversity in the curriculums of their various degrees and a lack of diversity in teaching staff and I feel that a greater effort to welcome BME voices in Higher Education Institutions will help to rectify some of these issues.
The conference has made me realise the importance of my role as a Lead Diversity and Wellbeing Ambassador and the potential impact we can have on Higher Education Institutions through giving a stronger voice to those from under-represented backgrounds. Although it is important to reach students and create safe spaces for under-represented students, I hope to make the message of diversity and inclusion reach further to those in positions of power. In my experience at The University of Manchester, course and teaching feedback is always valued therefore I am optimistic about creating better communication between students and staff and acknowledging the concerns of BME students.