With COP26 on the horizon here in Scotland, the world’s attention is, quite rightly, fixed on the global climate emergency. However, it’s important we don’t take our eyes off another critical and urgent societal emergency – the pandemic of discrimination, in all its forms.
Equity, diversity and inclusion
There is a plethora of evidence to demonstrate the persistence of structural, institutional and individual racism in higher education. Despite significant advances in policymaking, such as the Equality Act (2010) and an increasingly diverse student body, racial inequalities persist.
Tara’s family never had much money, but her mother instilled in her a love of learning from a young age. Tara’s mum had grown up with dyslexia and little support. She wanted better for her bookworm daughter and stressed the importance of going to college. As a young adult, Tara worked full time in order to take affordable college courses online. But she struggled to balance work and family demands with the demands of college.
As professionals working in the field of addiction, we’re acutely aware that sufficient understanding and ongoing support with recovery is lacking in higher education settings.
The idea of partnerships in research implies a shared pursuit of goals and interests. Usually, this is what draws researchers together and, without doubt, most of these partnerships are driven by an ambition for progress and development, be it personal, professional or of the institutions and communities with which we work.
A major challenge facing university careers services has always been how to deliver a service to all students without an army of staff allowing for one-to-one student engagement. Many have gone down the route of embedding employability in the curriculum (or extracting it) to make it structurally unavoidable and, while this approach supports the understanding and development of skills, it doesn’t guarantee that students will engage in personal career planning.
Over the past two decades, equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) has become an increasingly important, and more recently a mandatory, consideration within universities. This has resulted in a rise in the number of initiatives, working groups, policies and reports. Yet despite the time and money spent, little progress is being made within our disciplines and our institutions.
So why does EDI, in its current form, enable oppressive practices and systems of injustice to persist? And how can universities break out of the cycle of performativity?
Racism is alive within British higher education. More than half of university staff reported experiencing diverse forms of exclusion because of their race, including Islamophobia, according to the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) 2019 inquiry.
Proficiency with technology is critical to living well in a global, networked society. Digitalisation will shape the future of work, requiring new skills and knowledge across all sectors. Technology has become essential to daily interactions needed for personal and community well-being.
Higher education plays a key role in preparing students for this digital world, whether they are school-leavers studying for their first degree or experienced professionals engaging in lifelong learning.
As we continue to navigate life with Covid, it’s clear that the pandemic has revealed existing systemic inequities in HE. In light of this, let’s consider what it means conceptually to teach in more equitable and inclusive ways. In doing so, we can support the success of historically underserved and marginalised students.