Creation and Confidence: BME students as academic partners.but where were the staff?

Stella Jones-Devitt, Liz Austen, Liz Chitwood, Alan Donnelly, Carolyn Fearn, Caroline Heaton, Gabrielle Latham, Jill LeBihan, Andrew Middleton, Matt Morgan, Helen Parkin, Nathaniel Pickering


This Case Study documents the REACT project 'Creation and Confidence' based at Sheffield Hallam University, which has a larger-than-expected Black Minority and Ethnic (BME) attainment gap; hence, this student group has been constructed as 'hard to reach'. The project team consisted of a range of academic and professional services staff alongside three dedicated student researchers. The project set out to achieve: gaining evidence-based insights into the use of co-design and peer-learning as conduits of confidence-building for and belonging of BME students; developing a scalable approach to building confidence for and fostering belonging of all students; raising awareness of the need to think differently about explanations for BME underachievement. In reality, the team found that staff engagement constituted the biggest barrier, as - no matter how much incontrovertible evidence was presented - other facets of institutional provision were always identified as having priority, which resulted in inertia. This study documents the emotional labour of trying to effect change within a resistant culture. Whilst some of the aims remain unachieved and, arguably, were always going to be unachievable - there have been some very positive developments and enlightening lessons.

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