Equality & Diversity: Ensuring Success for All
All our students are individuals with a range of personal and academic circumstances that may present particular challenges at some point in their course. For instance, mature students may have caring responsibilities; some students with disabilities may require variations in teaching or assessment; international students may be adjusting to learning in a second language; students from black or minority ethnic backgrounds may face direct and indirect barriers to success. For ethical and legal reasons, personal academic tutors should be aware of these challenges and the fact that students in some categories are statistically less likely to ask for help and more likely to leave without completing their degree. At the end of this general section you will find links and advice relating to specific groups (scroll to end of the page).
Recognising these concerns certainly doesn’t mean that you should assume that every student in a particular group will have the same (or any) problems or need identical support. However, the University has a legal duty under the Equality Act 2010 to ensure that all barriers to students realizing their full potential are removed. Under the law there are ‘protected characteristics’: race, disability, age, sex, gender reassignment, religion and belief, pregnancy and maternity, and sexual orientation. As the latest statistical report on Equality in Higher Education shows, there is still work to be done to address the impact of structural inequalities. You can find a commentary and link to the report in this recent article https://wonkhe.com/blogs/times-up-for-the-awarding-gap/
Most of the causes of inequality are systemic and require institutional action of the kind the University is currently undertaking. You can find out more at the new webpages for Race Equity in the Education and Student Experience and about other relevant policies and initiatives at the Equality & Diversity pages (the latter is an internal site and requires a staff log-in).
There are also key actions that individual tutors can take to help. In general:
- Build trust and a welcoming and inclusive environment Use your initial contacts with your tutees to build trust and encourage them to discuss freely previous educational experiences (positive and negative) and what helped. Ensure they understand that your discussions are confidential, that they should report any issues that may be impacting on their studies and signpost them to any specialist support including mentoring schemes.
- Learn all your students’ names and how to pronounce them. This may seem very obvious but take the time to learn to pronounce the names of your tutees, if possible before you meet them. (The website www.pronouncenames.com/ can help but may not tell you which variation to use.) Students feel more supported when they know you know their name. Ensuring that you know and can pronounce each students’ name will help avoid a situation where a student feels ‘othered’ by a tutors’ unfamiliarity with their name. Your own background and culture may make you more familiar with some names than others. But don’t assume or imply that only some names are problematic.A more inclusive approach is for all students and staff to record a short introduction to themselves – either as audio or video – including their preferred name and then upload it to a shared space such as the course area of My Studies and/or Teams. They could use their phones to do this, and websites such as www.name-coach.com enable people to create a digital NameBadge with a voice recording of their name (plus preferred pronouns and other details if they wish) which they can also share in online profiles and email signatures. This will allow you to begin to familiarise yourself with your tutees in advance of your first meeting with them.
- Make sure it is clear when you are available and how to arrange to see you
Students come to university with different levels of familiarity with Higher Education. Some students may need to be personally encouraged, either in person or via email, to come and see you. It’s also a good idea to explain (either in an email or in your first session) when you are available for tutorials and how students can arrange these (e.g. is it a particular time of the week with a sign-up sheet on the door, or should students simply email you to arrange a session). You should also explain how to address staff, to ensure that any uncertainty around this doesn’t prevent students from contacting you. If doing group work in a tutorial session, it can also be a good idea to allocate roles within the group, to ensure that everyone is clear what they are doing and has a chance to participate.
- Look for informal ways to catch up with students This will help you to get to know students and demonstrate that you are available, and can be as simple as a quick chat if you bump into a student on campus, or after a seminar or lecture. (NB This is obviously more difficult in the current period of remote learning, but take opportunities to chat online, for instance during informal ‘coffee-break’ sessions on Teams) Importantly, regular conversations with you can build students’ confidence to seek other co- or extra-curricular opportunities, increasing their sense of belonging at the university.
More specific advice & policies relating to particular groups
- Guidance on Inclusive Language
- University of Brighton Faith and Spirituality Team
- University of Brighton Race and Faith Staff Network Group
- Ramadan The university’s Race and Faith Staff Network and Equality and Diversity staff have developed a guide for managers and teaching staff on how to support staff and students who are observing Ramadan. See also:
- Religious observance and exam arrangements policy
- Accommodating students’ religious observance during examinations: guidance for staff
Students with Disabilities
Check that you are aware of any individual students with declared disabilities, so that initial communications can take this into account. Meet them as early as possible to explore any support needs or necessary adjustments and provide a sound basis for regular progress reviews.
The School of Education has developed some useful guidance and a meeting checklist for tutors where a student has a Learning Support Plan (LSP) in place. Some of the guidance is school-specific but these documents are examples of good practice which other schools may like to adapt
Learning Support Plan Meeting Guidance for PATs Sep 21
Learning Support Plan meeting checklist
Many disabled students have reported benefits from the shift to online learning, such as flexibility or the ability to use assistive technology; for others, text based online communication or live Teams sessions may create extra anxiety. If you need specific advice, talk to the Disability and Dyslexia Team in Student Services
However, don’t assume that all students with disabilities will necessarily have problems. Most will have effective strategies in place before they enter higher education, and will simply require a reasonable level of flexibility and good communication with their tutors. Consider how to ensure that any students who subsequently develop a disability, such as a long-term illness or mental health difficulties, would feel comfortable about letting you know about this. ·
Nearly a third (29%) of our students at the University of Brighton are commuting distances of 15+ miles into campus. They often face unique challenges including logistical arrangements such as navigating busy public transport (or facing disruption or cancellations), finding a parking space, and arriving at their teaching rooms on time. This can take a toll, both physically and mentally, which can lead to a need for additional support, someone to talk to, some flexibility in how they access their learning materials, and – crucially – good communications. These students are often juggling multiple commitments such as caring for children, family members or employment outside their studies. For more on how we can help commuter students, see this recent post
Care leavers and estranged students
For a variety of different reasons, some students may not have the benefit of a supportive family network, so the tutorial relationship may be particularly important to build confidence and resilience and help them stay on track. They may also be eligible for support as part of the university’s commitment to help estranged students. You can find out more information on the university’s page about support for estranged students.
The university’s guide for staff for supporting students under 18, including guidance on the sharing of information and on accommodation policy.