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AccessHE BAME Students Forum (2nd meeting of the 2018/19 Academic Year)

Posted: Tuesday 16th April 2019
On 24th January 2019, the Student Success Project attended the second AccessHE BAME forum of 2018/19 at Monticello House, Russell Square. This meeting was a continuation of the previous meeting discussions, expanding and exploring implementing actions ahead of the next forum. The AccessHE BAME forum meets four times a year to discuss issues and difficulties faced in partner HE institutions in regards to the outcomes for Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students in relation to retention, access and success.

 Continuing from the previous meeting, the Students of Colour social media campaign was discussed. The project wishes to “share the varied lived experiences of students who often found their accounts ‘missing’ from other campaigns, celebrating them and their views.” The forum reviewed the campaign, exploring how it can be revamped, and engage more students. This social media campaign is the kind that the Student Success Project wants to bring to Brunel and its students.

 A research project carried out Karen Roberts from University College London (UCL) was presented at the forum. The Senior Access Officer conducted a study, which aimed to explore barriers and motivators to applying to university; and understand the types of communications that WP audiences would like to receive from a university. The research methodology followed eighteen focus groups, nine with students and nine with parents of students, the sample included both UCL Widening Participation (WP) and non-UCL Widening Participation programme participants.

 The overarching themes included, for instance, some resistance to the idea of needing extra help; students do not see themselves as disadvantaged. The barriers and motivators to applying to the university were explored, one of them, which stood out, was concerns about racism. Motivators were easily assumable ones, for example, degrees open the door to better-paid jobs and essential careers. Some were BAME specific such as making your parents or community proud. Cost and the focus on theory and not practical skills were some of the barriers to university. The lack of diversity within a university was a barrier mentioned by both white and BAME participants. 

 Views between students and parents expectedly differed. For students, their influencers include their parents and teachers but also Youtubers, National Citizen Service (NCS) and celebrities. Parent were more traditional, preferring print information, but they would appreciate schools assisting more and for university engagement to be more accessible.

 Karen concluded the presentation by presenting a series of long term initiatives such as reshaping how WP reaches out to its target audience, better support in regards to financial support information for both parents and students and to demonstrate employability outcomes. Parental engagement, in conclusion, needs to be addressed at all angles and universities should start approaching them. The findings from “Focus Groups with BAME Parents and Learners” can easily be applied to the Student Success Project, in terms of student and parent engagement.

 The forum explored ways to tackle the BME attainment gap, this being the purpose for which SSP was created.  We shared our work, our failures, successes and future plans. The forum also agreed, at the next forum, to explore the racism students may experience at their institutions.

For further reading on what the other Higher Education institutions are doing on diversity and inclusivity of their courses please click the links below: https://www.accesshe.ac.uk/students-colour-project/