Be SMART: A BAME staff-student partnership to enhance graduate employability




Employability, BAME, Co-creation, Professionalism, Belonging


This case study explores ‘Be SMART’, a black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff-student collaboration to enhance graduate employability, piloted at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. It provides a novel insight into how students, staff and external organisations working in partnership can successfully engage BAME students in enhancing their employability skills and experiences. Be SMART offered BAME students the opportunity to access mentoring, leadership and professionalism workshops and also flexible paid internships. We explore the impact of Be SMART by means of a questionnaire and a series of semi-structured interviews with participants. Our findings show that participants, who widely reported significant improvements in their self-confidence, acquired a range of professional-level skills from their engagement. They also developed a stronger sense of belonging to the University, enhanced their peer network and were subsequently more likely to engage with the Careers Service. Our case study critically explores the success factors of Be SMART to facilitate wider uptake of BAME-targeted, co-created employability initiatives in United Kingdom higher education.

Author Biographies

Obi Oputa, St Mary's University, Twickenham

Obi Oputa is a Careers Practitioner with leadership for diversity and inclusion. He works at St Mary's University, Twickenham, and supports the Institute of Business, Law and Society. Obi also delivers training and consultancy around diversity and inclusion practice, particularly around race within HE. He sits on the AGCAS Diversity and Inclusion Committee, and chairs the BAME Forum for Access HE. He holds an undergraduate degree in Law (LLB) and is currently studying towards a postgraduate degree in Careers Guidance in Higher Education. 

Iain Cross, St Mary's University, Twickenham

Dr Iain Cross is the Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching and Deputy Head of the Centre for Teaching Excellence and Student Success at St Mary’s University, Twickenham. He supports academic colleagues with professional development, and teaches curriculum design on the PgCert Academic Practice programme. He works on a variety of cross-institutional enhancement projects focused on teaching, learning and student support. Iain has a wide interest in higher education pedagogies and is currently researching sustainability and climate change teaching practices.