In her earlier post to the Big Conversation, Nicola Gale writes excitingly of how we at the University of Birmingham might think now about our future diversity and inclusion – both for the expectations future students may have of us, and of the expectations we might have of ourselves, across a rainbow of identities.
If we are to think about what we will know, what we will teach, and what we will learn in 2026, thinking about who we will be, together, as a learning community must be central.
Work already underway at Birmingham may underpin those ambitions and those expectations, and may allow us now to think about how success could be described in 2026.
Student Recruitment and Outreach work hand-in-hand at Birmingham, raising aspirations across all of our student community, and across the West Midlands in particular, the starting point for a University that is civic and globally ambitious at the same time.
What statistics might help us to think about who we will be, and what our success might look like in 2016?
• In 2014/15, 80.3% of the University’s UK-domiciled young entrants to full-time first degree courses came from schools and colleges in the state sector.
• In 2014/15, 22.8% of the University’s UK-domiciled young entrants to full-time first degree courses came from low socio-economic groups (NS-SEC classes 4-7).
• In 2014/15, 6.2% of the University’s UK-domiciled young entrants to full-time first degree courses came from low participation neighbourhoods (calculated using POLAR3)
Are these, we might want to ask, either the right kinds of things to be measuring, as we move positively towards 2026, or the right kinds of measurements of ourselves and our community?
And what of the brilliant work that we already do? Our A2B scheme has grown, year-on-year, into one of our great current successes at the University of Birmingham.
In 2016, 340 students – or roughly 6% – of our undergraduate entrants came to Birmingham through our Access to Birmingham (A2B) scheme; 34 students among those joining us to study Medicine came through the scheme, forming part of the 15% of Medicine undergraduates who come from the most disadvantaged neighbourhoods as those are measured by POLAR3.
But there are new challenges in the broader environment in which we are currently operating. They include changes in funding arrangements, changes in the secondary sector and curriculum reform which mean that what we are currently achieving cannot be taken for granted. There is increased awareness and focus on how we as a sector contribute to the question of social mobility.
How, then, might our Big Conversation help us to focus these kinds of questions? Will what looks today like a success of which we can all be proud still look like success in a decade’s time? Is who we are now who we will want to be in 2026?
Written by Tom Lockwood with help from Gail Rothnie (Head of Outreach)