A diverse university
Female, male, trans, genderfluid, black, white, straight, gay, bi, queer, able-bodied, disabled, on campus, distance learning, parent, carer, working class, middle class, migrant … By the time today’s primary school children reach university, they will expect an education that supports them to succeed whatever their identity and whatever their background.
New ideas are what university knowledge production is founded on, and diverse perspectives drive new ways of thinking about the problems we face as a society. Historically, universities (and many other British) institutions have been the preserve of the upper class, white, able-bodied, straight male (‘pale, male and stale’ goes the stereotype). The students of the future, who will be paying a lot more for their education than any of us currently employed by the University ever did, will expect more.
Students will expect their education to be a model of inclusive practice – drawing on the work of scholars from diverse backgrounds and with diverse identities, so all students have the opportunity to develop role models that are ‘like them’.
Students will expect that they can widen their horizons through interacting with other students from other backgrounds, ethnicities, gender identities, and sexuality. They will expect to be able to meet and learn from students from other countries.
They will expect that the faculty that teach them mirror their own diversity – that the University is pro-active in its attempts to recruit women, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled people, people from other parts of Europe and across the world.
They will expect that the university is a safe space for exploring and expressing their identity, so they can bring their whole selves into the learning environment and grow as people as well as grow their technical knowledge while they are studying here. They will expect that abusive and discriminatory language and behaviour will not be tolerated. They will expect that when they are exploring aspects of their identity – be it their sexuality, gender identity, or religion – that they will be given the space and support to do that.
They will expect to leave university equipped to move into the world of work able to be a role model for diversity and inclusion themselves.
This contribution to the Big Conversation is based on the author’s work on the University’s Inclusive Curriculum Committee (co-chair Matthew Francis), and a series of projects on the LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum (co-lead Nicki Ward).