Students Want a Diverse Curriculum – Work at Kent and National picture

The Diversity Mark Project, which launched in January 2018 at the University of Kent is a point of commencement for considering the inclusive curriculum. It is a collaborative project between the Student Success Project, Library Services in Information Services, informed by a cross-disciplinary working group. The group includes Kent Union, Dean of Internationalisation, Unit for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching and the Centre for English and World Language, School of European Language and Linguistics, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research. The work aims to facilitate discussion about inclusive curriculum by promoting reading list reviews in our academic schools by supporting staff and students to diversify their reading lists. Exciting work has also started in Kent Law School with a TESSA project Decolonise the Curriculum, led by Dr Suhraiya Jivraj (Senior Lecturer) and Sheree Palmer (Student Success Project Officer). The project, which launched in October 2018, is encouraging students to be a stakeholder in their own education, and shape the choice of texts they study. Students are undertaking research, with academic support, on diversity in Law, engaging in focus groups and writing up their findings to help inform future changes to the Law curriculum.

SECL’s Diversity Mark project, led by Dr Laura Bailey (Student Success Lecturer) and Alison Webb (Project Officer in SECL), asked module convenors to audit their reading lists and then worked with Library Services to create more representative lists. Academic feedback was entirely positive “I found this fascinating, especially as I was expecting a more balanced result – particularly in terms of gender. I’m thinking of presenting the results to the students on this course in the week where we explore the concept of hegemony in colonial new Spain. I’d like to demonstrate how narratives and systems of knowledge are not neutral, even in university reading lists, and even when the subject matter is actively post-and de-colonial, in fact!  I’ll invite them to suggest titles they come across in their wider reading and add them to the Reading List where appropriate.”

Reflections from student focus groups indicates that this line of work does matter. “Next term I’m studying a module called Race and Racism and if I don’t see someone of my skin colour being brought up it’s not going to make sense, because we have been affected more than a white person has and for me that would be very upsetting, I probably won’t say anything, but it will be very upsetting.”

SECL will now enter a second phase of the project and adopt the model of SSPSSR Medway. The project team in SSPSSR Medway included Dr Barbara Adewumi (Sociology Lecturer) Dave Thomas (EDI Project Officer for the Student Success Project) Evangeline Agyemain and Collins Konadu-Mensah (Diversity Mark project officers). Evangeline and Collins audited 12 modules to provide an evaluation of SSPSSR core text and additional reading lists and recommend immediate changes and additions. This has begun to show practical ways of closing the BME attainment gap and promote a sense of belonging. Student led focus groups provided a dynamic and in-depth view of the curricula student learning experience and provided an opportunity for developmental reflection and analysis for lecturers as well as promoting a more diverse learning experience for BME students.

The national conversation around Inclusive Curriculum continues a recent Guardian article investigates whether universities are listening. All of these initiatives and the processes attached will be written up and shared via the Student Success Resources Toolkit later this year.