Breaking barriers: using mentoring to transform representation, identity and marginalisation in black higher education students


  • Melanie-Marie Haywood SOAS, University of London
  • Adwoa Darko SOAS, University of London



Mentoring, Black students, Retention, Black Staff, Asimilation


As the centre for African Studies and Research in the UK, SOAS University of London has positioned itself as a beacon attracting black staff and students from around the UK and the world. In an attempt to address the evident institutional racism and limitations on access, retention and success of black students, the institution launched 'Breaking Barriers': a black staff and student mentoring scheme with the key aim of significantly improving black students' assimilation into, and consequently confidence in, the university environment, while simultaneously addressing systemic racism and the challenges it presents to black students. The scheme is currently in its fourth year and has mentored fifty black students. Outcomes of the scheme have shown measureable improvement in student learning, retention and general assimilation into and sense of belonging to the university.

Author Biographies

Melanie-Marie Haywood, SOAS, University of London

Dr. Melanie-Marie Haywood is an international HE consultant with a passion for academic development and quality in education. She has worked across the field of education, in primary, secondary and higher education in the Caribbean and the UK. She has specialised in quality enhancement of higher education provision in Trinidad and the UK, for a number of years working in academia as a consultant and senior administrator. She currently serves as the Head of Library, Learning & Teaching Innovation at SOAS, University of London, where she is responsible for the support and enhancement of teaching and learning across the institution, both culturally and strategically. She is also co-chair for Race, Accountability and Listening at SOAS, responsible for developing strategic outcomes for race equity, awareness and accountability.

Adwoa Darko, SOAS, University of London

Adwoa Darko is the Retention and Success Coordinator in SOAS, University of London. She is an alumnus of SOAS Law, having completed her LLB in 2016 and gone on to become Co-President of the Students’ Union. For the past five years, she has worked on many projects supporting EDI, access and success at SOAS, working directly with students from targeted widening participation backgrounds. Most recently, she chairs the Black Staff and Students’ Forum.

She is currently studying for a Masters in International Higher Education Management at the University of Bath.