Reflecting on diversity and inclusion in Higher Education

My own interest in equalities has been developing for a number of years, more explicitly in the past few, as I’ve been leading on a research project exploring diversity and equality issues in higher education. In the early days of the project (which I’ve written about elsewhere: https://www.charlottedannacademic.co.uk/academic-musings-blog/categories/research) I perceived the main issue to be about course content itself (who were the authors of the texts we were using for class discussions? What angles are we missing in the focus we are taking on topics?), and whilst I understand these to be important, there is actually a much bigger issue to deal with. How do you begin to reach the people who do not believe inequality to be a problem?

For the research project, I interviewed both students and staff members, to get their experiences and their views towards inequality, specifically in education. Interestingly, both parties had different views to these issues – students were disheartened that they didn’t see themselves in their curriculum, but when they did, it garnered great support from them, that they took outside of the classroom and into their everyday conversations. For the staff however, issues around inequality seemed to centre more around ‘tick box’ equivalent exercises. This was expressed with dismay by staff, especially those who were passionate about working with different groups, and ensuring our students are supported, in an authentic manner.

For the staff however, issues around inequality seemed to centre more around ‘tick box’ equivalent exercises. This was expressed with dismay by staff, especially those who were passionate about working with different groups, and ensuring our students are supported, in an authentic manner.

Whilst the above comments provide promise, and some direction for how to move forward, it has to be said that those who took part in the interviews wanted to take part – this is an area of interest to them, it is on their radar, they want to see change. Coming back to my previous question – my struggle is how to engage with those who do not see these issues. I don’t have an answer for this – I wish I did! I do however, see some common features with exploring issues of inequality (not just in education, but outside of it, like what is being done with NREC) that I feel contribute towards productive conversations.

Coming back to my previous question – my struggle is how to engage with those who do not see these issues. I don’t have an answer for this – I wish I did! I do however, see some common features with exploring issues of inequality (not just in education, but outside of it, like what is being done with NREC) that I feel contribute towards productive conversations.

Firstly, talking about these issues with people who had not seen them, or engaged with them before, just opens up a new avenue for conversation. I see this on social media mostly, with it being a haven for topical discussion. The more these conversations are being had, the more awareness is brought to them. Secondly, for those who think this is important, be ‘that person’ others know they can come to for exploring such issues. As an example – my students know this is the work I’m passionate about, so if they have an inequality related concern, they will bring it to me. Finally, invite others to see things from a different perspective – even if you have to use yourself as an example – giving others the opportunity to see an issue from the lens of someone who does not look like them might provide the view they need to see things differently.

Finally, invite others to see things from a different perspective – even if you have to use yourself as an example – giving others the opportunity to see an issue from the lens of someone who does not look like them might provide the view they need to see things differently.

Dr. Charlotte Dann MSc, FHEA, MBPsS

Lecturer in Psychology

University of Northampton


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