The Barriers and Facilitators to University Entry in Disadvantaged Students by Ethnicity

by Dr Ciara McCabe, Director of Outreach and the Reading Scholars Programme in Psychology at the University of Reading.

 

University graduates on average earn more money over their lifetime, spend less time in unemployment and even live longer than their non-university educated peers [1-3]. Therefore the Office for students states that ‘All students, from all backgrounds, with the ability and desire to undertake higher education, should be supported to access, succeed in, and progress from higher education’ [4]. Data taken from the 2020 Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS a UK-based organisation that operates the application process for British universities) reports that those with low socio-economic backgrounds, with a disability, mature students, care leavers and ethnic minorities, are all underrepresented at UK universities [5].

Outreach and widening participation work aims to close this gap by increasing applications from those considered most disadvantaged in society. In line with this, the University of Reading has outlined in its 5-year plan (2020/21 to 2024/5) that access for full-time first-degree entrants from disadvantaged backgrounds is their main focus.

 

 

Previous studies have tried to explain the student experience in those that are underrepresented in higher education but this has been mostly at the undergraduate and postgraduate level[6-10]. Less studies have focused on access to university for those in disadvantaged groups. One large survey ran by UCAS in 2016 on 16,000 UK domiciled applicants found that many students worry about financial implications of attending university and that advantaged students worried more about “fitting in”. Also disadvantaged students worried more about practical things like transport and accommodation [11]. The study also found that more advantaged than disadvantaged applicants said that ‘nowadays, almost everyone goes to university’. Applicants also reported limited access to widening participation programmes in general. There is much less qualitative data on the views of disadvantaged young people about university and even less, about how this might differ between ethnicities.

 

Therefore, we set out to examine views on access through the Reading Scholars Programme, a Widening participation programme for year 12 students at the University of Reading[12]. The programme aims to increase the number of university applications from disadvantaged students (Read the full selection criteria for the programme). As part of a scholars Psychology research project, we asked students about their views on university access and examined if this differed by ethnicity.

We found that Black, Asian, ethnic minorities (BAME) and White adolescents reported similar barriers (financial worries) and facilitators (getting a good qualification) to applying to University. However, there were some differences for example BAME participants stated that ‘having no choice’ was a reason they would apply to university while White participants did not mention this. When asked about studying close by or far away ~60% of BAME students said they would prefer to study close by, compared to 46% of White participants. Plus, only BAME students mentioned studying close by because of financial reasons.

 

This work extends previous studies by reporting the differences between disadvantaged students by ethnicity. Knowing how underrepresented groups differ in their views on the barriers and facilitators to university entry can help us to develop more targeted outreach and widening participation activities.

 

 

 

This blog refers to:
McCabe C, Keast, K and Kaya, SM. Barriers and Facilitators to University Access in Disadvantaged UK Adolescents by Ethnicity: A Qualitative study. Under Review.
Psychology and Clinical Language Sciences, Whiteknights campus, Global Recruitment and Admissions Advancement Group, London Road Campus, University of Reading, Reading.

 

Referen­­­ces:
  1. Hummer, R.A. and E.M. Hernandez, The Effect of Educational Attainment on Adult Mortality in the United States. Popul Bull, 2013. 68(1): p. 1-16.
  2. Krueger, P.M., I.A. Dehry, and V.W. Chang, The Economic Value of Education for Longer Lives and Reduced Disability. Milbank Q, 2019. 97(1): p. 48-73.
  3. Pfeffer, F.T., Growing Wealth Gaps in Education. Demography, 2018. 55(3): p. 1033-1068.
  4. Office for Students (OFS), Securing student success: Regulatory framework for higher education in England. 2018.
  5. Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), 15th January Deadline Analysis. 2020.
  6. Morrison, N., M. Machado, and C. Blackburn, Student perspectives on barriers to performance for black and minority ethnic graduate-entry medical students: a qualitative study in a West Midlands medical school. BMJ open, 2019. 9(11).
  7. Stegers‐Jager, K.M., et al., Ethnic disparities in undergraduate pre‐clinical and clinical performance. Medical education, 2012. 46(6): p. 575-585.
  8. Lynam, S., et al., The experiences of postgraduate research students from Black, Asian and minority ethnic background: an exploratory study. 2019.
  9. Woolf, K., et al., Perceived causes of differential attainment in UK postgraduate medical training: a national qualitative study. BMJ open, 2016. 6(11).
  10. Woolf, K., et al., The mediators of minority ethnic underperformance in final medical school examinations. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 2013. 83(1): p. 135-159.
  11. Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, Through the lens of students: how perceptions of higher education influence applicants’ choices. 2016.
  12. University of Reading, The Reading Scholars Programme, in https://www.reading.ac.uk/web/files/ta/Reading_Scholars_Yr12_Brochure_2021.pdf. 2020.
Images sourced from:
https://www.flexjobs.com/blog/post/advantages-disadvantages-remote-jobs/
https://www.rawpixel.com/image/140559/premium-photo-image-college-students-group-study-academic

 

 

 

 

LGBT+ History Month: Pronouns

Collaboratively written by:
Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion  

Alina Tryfonidou, LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair 
Ruvi Ziegler, LGBT+ Staff Network Co-Chair  
Gemma Fitz, LGBT+ Staff Network Lead Ally 
Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor 
Hatty Taylor, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor  
Lennox Bruwer, RUSU Transgender Students Officer 

 

 

 

Pronouns

Words we use to refer to people’s gender in conversation – for example, ‘he’ or ‘she’. Some people may prefer others to refer to them in gender neutral language and use pronouns such as they/their and ze/zir. 

(Stonewall Glossary of Terms) 

 

In February 2019, we launched Pronoun Badges across the University of Reading for all staff and students to pick up for free. This was a collaborative project between UoR’s LGBT+ Action Plan Group, the central D&I Team and RUSU. The aim of creating pronoun badges and distributing them across campuses was to start creating positive cultural change across our UoR community.  

However, over the last year, we’ve all been working more digitally and less on campus, or at least, around each other in person. As we’ve been communicating with each other more online, we may have noticed more people including their pronouns on their social media profiles and email signatures instead. Afterall, we’re not wearing our lanyards whilst on Teams! 

But why are people doing this and why is it important?  

 

 

Why Are Pronouns Important?

We initially wrote about the importance of pronouns in our blog piece back in February 2019 – Pronoun Badges at the University of Reading. 

We want our trans and non-binary colleagues and students to know, as well as our cisgender colleagues and students, that we not only support but encourage their expression of their gender identity. We want to recognise and respect the entire spectrum of gender and do all that we can to represent and celebrate the diverse community of identities that we have at Reading. 

We’re also more likely to be meeting colleagues and students online now. As such, by including our pronouns in our digital presence, such as in our email signature, we are able to quickly and easily self-identify and indicate to the people we are talking to the correct pronoun to use when referring to ourselves 

When pronouns are clearly displayed alongside our name, we can all challenge immediate assumptions that might be made about gender. Assumptions might be made based on physical appearance, the spelling of our names and sometimes perhaps even based on our job role. This can lead to misgendering.    

For many people, worrying about which pronoun others use to address them might not have ever been a problem. Not everybody has this privilege of a visible gender identity. When referred to someone with the wrong pronoun, an individual can feel disrespected, invalidated, and alienated. Similar to when another person might consistently pronounce or spell your name incorrectly. These are significant elements of our identities and so are important to get right. Inclusion is key in making us all feel psychologically safe at work and consequently, be able to be our authentic self.  

Our everyday language is rife with gender associations, and this may go unnoticed if you have never given much thought to your own gender identity or expression. For someone who has experienced any incongruence with the gender assigned to them at birth, the language we use can be a daily reminder of their struggle. Try to spot times in your language where you are making assumptions about gender. For example, rather than using “he or she” when talking about a hypothetical situation, substitute “they.” 

We can’t tell what someone’s pronouns are by looking at them. Knowing and using the correct pronouns for someone is a positive way for us to support the people we work with. It also makes our working and learning environment more comfortable and safer for everyone.  

By taking a small and simple step such as including our pronouns in our email signatures, we can show that we care about and respect the people we work with and move towards becoming a more inclusive organisation.  

 

 

“As a trans person, it can be disheartening to be the only person in your network including your pronouns in your email signature, and many of us avoid sharing our pronouns, and can endure misgendering as a result. When I see my peers and colleagues sharing their own pronouns in their email signatures, the act feels normalised, and I feel safer to share my own pronouns.” 

Lennox Bruwer, RUSU Transgender Students Officer 

 

 

 

Allyship

One of the most important aspects of being an ally is visibility. By showing your support and being proactive, you are helping to create a safe and inclusive space for our LGBT+ community. Stating your own pronoun preferences in your email signatures and other digital resources helps by making this become standard practice and encourages our LGBT+ staff and students to feel comfortable and confident doing the same.   

 

“As an ally, I have found it very useful for everyone to state their own pronouns when introducing themselves within a meeting. I first saw this approach being used in the Stonewall events and meetings that I have attended, and I think this is best practice.” 

Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion  

 

 

FAQs 

How do I ask someone what their pronouns are?  

If you are being introduced to someone, you can start by stating your own pronouns. This helps by giving them the opportunity to share theirs too but also lets them know they are talking to an ally.  

You can ask someone what their pronouns are, or how they like to be referred to, in the same way you would ask someone their name. Also, listen and follow their lead on how they refer to themselves. It is always better to ask rather than assume or guess, however remember that not everyone may want to share their pronouns. If this is the case, do not press the matter and use neutral pronouns such as them/they. Neutral pronouns should also be used in situations where it is not appropriate to ask or if you are in doubt.   

 

What do I do if I use the wrong pronoun for someone?  

Do not panic or make it into a bigger deal than it needs to be. Quickly apologise, correct yourself and move on. We all slip up sometimes, out of habit or forgetfulness, the important thing is to show you are genuinely making an effort to use the correct pronouns and that you apologise when you get it wrong.  

 

 

 

Further Resources

For more information on LGBT History Month www.lgbtplushistorymonth.co.uk 

10 ways to step up as an ally to non-binary people – Stonewall Staff  

Talking about pronouns in the workplace – Human Rights Campaign Foundation  

Pronouns 101: Why They matter and What To Do (and Not Do) If You Misgender Someone – Kay Martinez  

 

 

Happy Year of the Ox!

by Nozomi Tolworthy 雷希望 and Hatty Taylor, Diversity and Inclusion Advisors at the University of Reading 

(This post includes Chinese traditional characters and phrases with Cantonese 粵拼 jyutping and Mandarin 拼音 pinyin pronunciations respectively)

 

(Image sourced from: https://www.vecteezy.com/vector-art/1222770-chinese-new-year-2021-banner-with-front-view-of-ox)

 

Lunar New Year / 農曆新年 (nung lik san nin / nóng lì xīn nián) is on Friday 12th February this year. This is the Year of the Ox.

 

Why is it the Year of the Ox?

Each year is represented by one of the 12 Zodiac animals. The zodiac system was originally connected with worship of animals and has existed in Chinese culture since the Qin dynasty which was around 2000 years ago! As such, the zodiac signs play an integral part in Chinese culture. Each animal has different characteristics and meanings which is often used to determine a person’s fortune and luck for the coming year and even their compatibility with other Zodiacs. For instance, those born in the Year of the Ox are said to often be decisive, honest, dependable, and hardworking.

The order the animals come in are:

rat (鼠 – syu / shǔ )
ox (牛 – ngau / niú)
tiger (虎 – fu / hǔ)
rabbit (兔 – tou / tù)
dragon (龍 – lung / lóng)
snake (蛇 – se / shé)
horse (馬 – maa / mǎ)
goat (羊 – yeung / yáng)
monkey (猴 – hau / hóu)
rooster (雞 – gai / jī)
dog (狗 – gau / gǒu)
pig (猪 – zyu / zhū)

 

(Image sourced from: https://img.meijingku.com/d/file/2020/02/25/3b1eb3eb6572fcbec8b09e9b01f1d605.jpg?x-oss-process=style/w_450-h_auto)

 

 

You can find out more about the Chinese Zodiac on this TED talk: The Chinese Zodiac, Explained – ShaoLan and on this Ted’Ed video: The Myth Behind the Chinese Zodiac – Megan Campisi and Pen-Pen Chen

 

 

Celebrations and Decorations

Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than 20% of the world! Many Asian countries, including Hong Kong SAR, South Korea, Singapore, Vietnam and China celebrate Lunar New Year as a national holiday. Usually, celebrations begin on Lunar New Year Eve and can last around 15 days.

 

Before celebrations begin, it is tradition for people to clean their houses thoroughly, almost like having a big ‘spring clean’. Decorations are then displayed once the house is clean.

Decorations for Lunar New Year are predominantly red – the colour represents happiness and good fortune. People often decorate by hanging up art and calligraphy illustrating certain words and phrases. The most common is 福 (fuk / fú) – meaning happiness and good fortune. It can be written with calligraphy onto a square piece of red paper like in the image below. 福 (fuk / fú) is commonly put up on doors, windows and walls around homes, offices, schools, and stores.

(Image sourced from: https://img.meijingku.com/d/file/2020/02/25/3b1eb3eb6572fcbec8b09e9b01f1d605.jpg?x-oss-process=style/w_450-h_auto)

 

If you have studied or worked at the University of Reading for a little while, you may remember seeing or even picking up one of the 福 (fuk / fú) badges that were created in celebration of the Year of the Pig in 2019.

 

 

Online Activities and Events
Lunar New Year is a time for family, and this is seen as the most important part of the holiday.

Although, this year many will not be able to see each other in person, there is no doubt celebrations will be taking to online platforms instead. See below for some of the online events we have come across!

 

Online Activities and Events
Date & Time Event Organiser Register
From 3rd Feb through to 19th February Several organisations in NYC offering a range of online events for those of all ages Various NYC organisers (Event times based on NYC time) Virtual events from NYC
Saturday 13th Feb 15:00 GMT

 

Enjoy streamed video performances and demonstrations of traditional Chinese crafts and Lunar New Year traditions. Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Chinese Cultural Institute, and the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the United States of America. Free lunar new year celebrations
Sunday 14th Feb all day Join London’s Lunar New Year celebrations online. The London Chinatown Chinese Association (LCCA) Head to the LCCA’s YouTube channel to tune in on the day and find more info on the LCCA’s website.
Thursday 18th Feb 12:00 – 13:30 GMT Free Lunar New Year themed art workshop for children SEIDs – Social Innovation and Enterprise Hub Free online craft workshop for children
Wednesday 24th Feb

17:45 – 19:15 GMT

Lunar New Year Origami class

(£8 Public; £6 MEAA Friends & Students)

The Museum of East Asian Art https://meaa.org.uk/event/lunar-new-year-origami/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Fund – Successful Bids!

by Dr Allán Laville, Dean for Diversity and Inclusion & Lecturer in Clinical Psychology and Nozomi Tolworthy, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor.  

 

The D&I initiative fund supports bids that
a) involve innovative approaches to advancing D&I practice,
b) have a reach across the University and beyond, and
c) lead to meaningful impact by improving the lived experience of colleagues and students.

The successful bids in the 2020/21 Spring term round strongly meet the above criteria and advance our University D&I strategy. It was particularly nice to see many submissions aiming to advance our work in disability and neurodiversity.

Here you can view a list of the projects that received funding in the 2020/21 rounds and 2019/20 rounds. We would encourage individuals to get in touch with the central D&I Team or to those who led on these projects for further information and/or sharing best practice.

 

 

The following projects received funding in the 2020/21 round. 

Jia Hoong Ong, SPCLS, Autism Book Club (ABC)
Amanda Clarke, SAGES, Sharing Heritage through Diversity: The Festival Project
Hella Eckardt, SAGES, Diverse Archaologies
Anna Jones, MERL, 51 Voices – different voices
Marc Jacobs, IOE, Towards a Best Practice Model: BA Primary Education (IoE) Final Year students as mentoring partners to Black, Asian and Minority ethnic (BAME) Year 1 students embedding academic writing skills
Carolina Vasilikou, SBE, Architecture, The Neuro-atypical Hackathon Podcast event: Inclusive Wayfinding for adults with (dis)abilities
Shweta Band, Law, DI-Law-gues: Designing a pilot evidence-based support programme for improving undergraduate BAME student awarding gap at the School of Law
Matthew Windsor, Law, Locating Islam in the (Law School) Curriculum
Claire Collins, HBS, Forming a Group for the Dissemination of Gender Research
Claire Collins, HBS, Male Ally Training for the Women@Reading Network
Sarah Chorley, HBS, Networking Roulette
Eileen Hyder, CQSD, Promoting Race Equality in Higher Education: an edited UoR Anthology
Emma Snowden, Student Services, Career Diversity Champions R U Inspired?
Ciara McCabe, SPCLS, Showcasing the Barriers and Facilitators to University Entry for BAME vs White Reading Scholars
Ellen Pilsworth, SLL, DLC BAME and Talking Race meet-up
Jenny Chamarette, SACD, Dwoskin, disability and…
Kat Bicknell, SCFP, Establishing a BAME Student Network for Pharmacy Students

 

The following projects received funding in the 2019/20 round.

Jane Setter, SLL, Supporting successful BAME outcomes: Student life through a lens #2
Suzy Tutchell, IoE, A Stitch in Time: Inclusive Threads of Learning
Mark Laynesmith, Chaplaincy, Interfaith Intern
Ludmilla Cerne and David Nutt, SCFP, Student-led activities for better integration of students from the NUIST-Reading Academy
Jennifer Scott and Sam Williams, SMPCS, International Women in Mathematics Day 2020
Julie Farwell, SLL, Women’s Springboard 2019 cohort Termly Meetings
Sarah Cardey and Rebecca Jerrome, SAPD, Resources for decolonizing the curriculum
Yasmine Shamma, SLL, Revisionist Thinking: Fostering Inclusive Diversity

within the Curriculum, and Beyond

Eileen Hyder, CQSD, CQSD Diversity & Inclusion event: addressing ethnicity attainment differentials.
Calvin Smith, SMPCS, Hidden figures: putting people back into mathematics resources
Naomi Lebens, UMASCS, Drawing Diversity: Artist-in-Residence
Flavia Ghouri and Sophie Oduyale, SCFP, Setting up positive role models for the diverse body of students in Pharmacy
Nicola Abram, SLL, BAME students in English Literature: A Network
Matthew Windsor, School of Law, Decolonising the Legal Curriculum
Tony Capstick, SLL, Diversifying the curriculum: drawing on students’ linguistic and cultural heritage to develop intercultural awareness
Sedtin Wan, International Student Advisory Team, Gingerbread Village
Sedtin Wan, International Student Advisory Team, Global Buddies
Elizabeth Conaghan, School of Law, “The Disappearance of Miss Bebb” – a play about challenging inequalities.
Eleanor Draycott, IT, DiversIT: Diversity in Tech Event
Ellen Hackl, Technical Services, Making practical classes in Pharmacy Inclusive-by-Design.
Emma Butler, Careers, Identifying what support students with disabilities need with their career decisions and applications.
Jeanne-Louise Moys SACD; Richard Nunes HBS; Carolina Vasilikou, SBE, INCLUSIVE WAY HACKATHON: the design of everyday wayfinding in outdoor public environments.
Dr Rachael Neal and Rebecca Morgan, SAPD, Investigating effects of educational background and other D&I characteristics on student retention and attainment in SAPD UG programmes.
Dr Matthew McFrederick, FTT, Race and Performance Today
Dr Karen Jones, IoE, Leadership and Diversity in Higher Education
Liz Conaghan (School of Law) and Madeleine Davies (SLL), 100 Years of Women’s Voices
Sian Walsh, SBE, SBE Celebrating Diversity
Ruth Evans, SAGES, GES, Rights-based Mapping of Race and Religion Equalities and Discrimination in Statutory Service Provision in Reading
Colin Campbell, ISLI, Sanctuary café at UoR
Bolanle Adebola, Folashade Adeyemo, Law, Black History Month for Law (Month of October)
Mara Oliva, History, Women & BAME Women and US Foreign Policy
Amanda Clarke, SAGES, ‘Us Too: mental health, sexual harassment & bullying in fieldwork situations’
Allán Laville, SPCLS, Disability Research Showcase – Theory to Practice
Fiona Knott, SPCLS, Learning from the experts: students with autism tell us about autism at University
Daisy O’Connor, RUSU Activities Officer, Knights Pride Sports Day

 

 

For further information about the fund, take at look at these Staff Portal Articles:

Diversity and Inclusion Initiative Funding (30 November 2020)

Funding available for diversity and inclusion initiatives (06 August 2020)

Get in touch with the central D&I Team at diversity@reading.ac.uk if you have any further questions.

 

 

 

Dear Women of Colour…

Dear Women of Colour…

a poem by Apatsa Rose, Contracts Associate, Research and Enterprise Services

 

Dear Colour,

It took a while for me to notice you
Though I would stand in a room with a sea of individuals with faces that looked nothing like mine
They were always kind
Hence I was always blind to you
Until year two.
When I came in with a little fro and lo and behold I was…
different.
My nose was
wider, My lips
were larger, My hair was
coarser
And I never knew until she pointed it out at school.
Running to the bathroom with
tears streaming down my face, then all I
wanted was my mother.
Looking in the mirror
I contemplated her abrasive statements
Was she right?

Did I look just
like
poo?
Was I ugly for being different?
Was I still that sweet, precious girl that my family said I was or was I now
Disposable?
Being the only non-white child in school had never been so apparent until this pivotal moment
Suddenly,
I saw you.
You brought with you a divide,
A fight with self to discover the wealth that my colour brought
To find the light we hold inside
To manipulate perceptions, yet stay true to who I am
I can’t say much good has come from knowing you
But I’m aware
And though I’m not sure how to deal with you yet
I still walk on. I still stand strong.
To Colour, I say Hello…

 

 

Dear Woman,

Did God curse just you
Or he cursed man too?
Though sometimes you are seen as less than
You’ve been shown that you still can
Be the queen of the home
Of the road
Of the show
Though we speak of girl power
Is it a myth that really exists
Or do we aim to empower one another?
Woman, he says to you
Mother, Sister, Girlfriend, Wife
At times these terms connote strife
From the time the period arrives
Expectation is created,
Though you knew not
Because you were silently elated.
Long nails
Tight curls

Rouged lips
Thick hips
Shaved legs
Full edges
Are supposedly what make you, you.
Yet to you there is no structure
Too varied, intricate and positively complex to categorise
Men are mesmerised by your diversity.
Dear woman, to you I say
When in doubt
Question a world without your touch.

 

 

Dear Women of Colour,

We salute you
We salute that you tore your enemies in two
Because some of us in your shoes
Wouldn’t be able to do the things you do
Downtrodden by society
Their men, our men

The beauty of your boldness always stand strong
In a world where sometimes it’s hard to belong
Dear woman of colour
This appears to be wrong
Oprah, Archie,
Michelle, Mum
When you stop to think of what you’ve become
An inspiration, a ray of sun
Though you are of colour
Though you are a woman
Though anyone who beholds you can clearly see this
May you not be purely defined by the beauty of your physique
Or subject to pre-conceived ideas about who and what you should be
May your spirit be seen
Your heart keen
To illuminate generations to come along
Show us that we can do,
Be, Anything.
That one day, we won’t have to work thrice as hard to get where we need to
And will only depend on our man if we want to

Break free from any chains that will ever seek to bind you
Mental rains should fail to surround you
Fear cease to drown you
Dear women of colour, bright as day
I proudly say,
You are the future.

 

 

 

Anti.

Anti.

a poem by Apatsa Rose, Contracts Associate, Research and Enterprise Services

This fight has been happening for centuries.
The fight to be equal
Equally free
Equally paid
Equally perceived
Equally likely to stay alive.

The police have been crushing the bones and skulls of victims for years
Shooting the bodies of our peers
Then being promoted after this,
Whilst the testimonies of the dead
Fall on deaf ears.
The courts have ignored
Industries have soared
Churches have adored Jesus…but not the ones he came to save
Society has scored
On the backs of those who roared
And never stopped shouting.

But you
The worst of all
The one who makes up these institutions
Individuals
Beings
Humankind
Have bathed in apathy
Have laid in passivity
Have sprayed the cologne of accidie
So why ​now have you joined the fight?
Has lockdown given you a reason to think of others
Outside of yourself?
Outside of your circle?
Outside of anything that affects your existence?
Why is it that ​now
You have seen the light?
Who can blame you?
It’s in our nature…

Well done though

Clap for yourself
Honestly, go-ahead!
Congratulations for getting up and out of your complacent bed!
Splendid job
For climbing of
out the pit of
torpor
And posting a
picture on the trendy
bandwagon of “#blackouttuesday” because
Everybody’s doing it, so
why not you?
Take 2 minutes out of your
day to show you’re down with the culture
When this has never even crossed your mind!
It’s something I struggle to get behind
Because there’ll never be true equality
If mindsets stay sleeping
So why did it take George Floyd to make you see that there’s a problem?
Why now?


This is for all those who died at the hands of brutal force just for the colour of their skin, including George Floyd…

What Matters Most

by Rory Williams-Burrell, Trainee Technician, School of Archaeology, Geography, and Environmental Science (SAGES) 

 

The Year 2020 has been a challenging one for our staff and students here at the University. Significant changes had to be made regarding the way we work and the way that we live. The world stage has not only highlighted the stresses surrounding Covid-19, but also that deep change is needed in our thinking around ‘race and gender’. This need for change was clearly highlighted in May this year due to the abhorrent behaviour and murderous act that led to the death of George Floyd. This act of racial hatred sparked rallies and marches across the world to show how racism is still prevalent today and that it needs to stop.

The extent to which racism and sexism is present in our everyday lives needs to be addressed, as well as the detrimental effect discrimination can have on our wellbeing. The term ‘race’ is often misunderstood. It derives from France and Italy in the 15th century, and the meaning behind the term translates as kind, breed, and lineage. This also incorporates the physical characteristics of skin colour, eye colour and facial form. This crosses over when we look at ‘gender’ which can be defined as having three aspects, each with an association spectrum. These three aspects are ‘gender identity’, which is how a person identifies themselves, ‘gender expression’, which relates to their behaviour, dress and how others perceive their gender, and ‘biological sex’, which depends on a person’s mostly physical characteristics, for example, these include a person’s genitalia, body shape, body shape, voice, body / facial hair, hormone balance etc.

Deep change is also needed in the ‘disability’ sector, surrounding physical and mental health. One definition could be that being disabled takes away the elements from you that make you able. For example, this could relate to a wheelchair user who requires more space for social distancing purposes than others. In another instance someone may not be able to wear a mask due to asthma and therefore keeping more than two meters away is important for their health and well-being.

 

I am a member of the Well-being Peer Support team here at the University of Reading. Our members consist of staff volunteers (not counsellors or mental-health advisors) who are trained to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health issues, whatever the cause, and can guide you to the right support. The Well-being Peer Support network is primarily geared towards staff members where we provide a space for listening and conversation with strict confidentiality in place. You can contact the network through: https://www.reading.ac.uk/human-resources/policies-and-procedures/health-and-wellbeing/wellbeing-peer-support#. Through the link above you will be able to see a list of our volunteers and be able to choose who to approach and speak to.

If you are a student at the university, there is a wide range of support and guidance available for you including being able to access links to professional counsellors and mental health advisors who can be reached 24/7: https://www.reading.ac.uk/essentials/Support-And-Wellbeing

There is also an excellent Wellbeing Toolkit produced by Student Services, with lots of useful advice and helpful links: https://www.reading.ac.uk/essentials/-/media/essentials/files/wellbeing-toolkit-nov.pdf

A particularly helpful resource presents five steps to well-being and shows how making small changes in our daily lives can result in a range of positive outcomes: https://www.reading.ac.uk/human-resources/working-at-reading/health-and-wellbeing/5-steps-to-wellbeing

 

There are of course many more steps to maintaining one’s wellbeing, particularly at this challenging time, and I have tried to focus my attention on implementing changes in my own life. Over the years I have been researching and finding ways to help myself through episodes of depression that started during childhood. When I was a toddler, I suffered a head injury when I was hit by a car and I was placed in intensive care for over three months. I was lucky to survive and I am forever grateful to have had the support over the years that have got me to where I am today. I would never have imagined that I would get through, school, college and then a university degree. So, I urge you, please, not suffer in silence but to seek support when needed. It is important that our University looks out for everyone, especially at this time of uncertainty.

 

There is a great podcast I recommend hosted by a British physician, Dr. Rangan Chatterjee, entitled ‘Feel better live more’. Dr. Chatterjee talks of four pillars of health; these pillars are nutrition, exercise, sleep, and meditation. I have tried and am still trying to create habits surrounding these four pillars. These actions have helped me reflect and change my perspective and outlook on life and I hope that they will be able to help others too.

Is Being “White” Bad? Understanding Race During Covid-19

Reham ElMorally, PhD Candidate, Dep. of International Development, SAPD
Dr Billy Wong, Associate Professor, Institute of Education
Meggie Copsey-Blake, MA Education student (2019/2020), Institute of Education

 

Can 2020 get any worse?” A trending question in the global community. 2020 has confronted us with life-altering realities, which in turn has changed the discourse around what is perceived to be ‘normal’. The shift in paradigm throughout the world, as influenced by the global pandemic, COVID-19, and the death of George Floyd fuelling the #BlackLivesMatter movement, has encouraged the reassessment of institutionalized racism in Higher Education (HE) settings in the UK.

In our three-year longitudinal study we have so far conducted 69 interviews from undergraduate students in STEM disciplines, asking about their experiences in HE. The parameters of our analysis varied. On one occasion we set the parameters to racial understanding and comparing. The theoretical approach included institutionalization of racial biases through unconscious means of transmission.

Institutions, such as universities, have been established to cater to a specific socio-economic and cultural fragment of society. During the establishment of many universities the objective was to perpetuate social hierarchies and discern the social hegemonic bloc from other sects of the society. In the UK, the social hegemonic block is the White population. However, the changing global climate, and the efforts by governments to eradicate racialized understandings and mannerisms (for example the Race and Equality Act 1965), have contributed to levelling of the playing field. Recreating racial understandings, nonetheless, does not connote an eradication of it. Unconscious biases are one of the facets racial understandings are manifested.

Unconscious Bias describes the underlying prejudicial attitudes and understandings one has towards a person or a group. Sequentially, it informs and is affected by how one views themselves and others. Self-perception, however, can be deceiving. As scholars pointed out, Unconscious Biases could lead to a cognitive error called Affinity Bias; the tendency to identify, relate, and behave more favourably towards people similar to or within your affinity group. For instance, a White, heterosexual, abled, women, can relate better to another White women, with similar dispositions, than to a Black, homosexual, disabled, man.

Affinity bias can oftentimes lead to a skewed sense of self. In extreme cases, one could argue, it leads to aggressive racial interactions, where a sense of self-worth is heightened and deviators from the affinity group are regarded as lesser in worth. Consequentially, an aggravated sense of superiority and inferiority can arise. Where members of the social hegemonic bloc are reassured by their affinity group, other social blocs are discarded as hindrances, and in extreme cases, enemies of the social order. In the UK, the hegemonic bloc is the White population for whom the institutions were erected to serve, such as universities.

How does this relate to Higher Education? Well, HE institutions such as universities, much like government institutions, are meant to serve the interests of the majority population, particularly the hegemonic bloc; Karl Marx referred to those as ‘owners of means of production’ or the bourgeois. In any given society, as Rousseau argued, a social contract of sorts needs to be established to govern and police behaviour and attitudes. The social contract provides guidelines to who is entitled to what, and when. Once a social hierarchy is agreed upon, institutions are erected to solidify and organize the social fabric. While constructing these institutions, rarely did anyone question who is it intended for and for what purpose. With the scholastic community giving more attention to qualitative studies, since the 1970s, they have uncovered that structures, much like human beings, are reactive to the environment in which they were constructed. Less similar to humans, structures like those of institutions are more difficult to dismantle, as bureaucracy slows down any process of change.

As changing institutions has proved to be a difficult task, we analysed how students have reacted to said institutions. The parameters of the study juxtaposed White Privilege with internalized inferiority. Utilizing critical discourse analysis, we revisited students’ statements with regards to the influence of their own ethnicity on their academic performance and achievements respectively. Accounting for the university’s effort to establish a diverse and tolerant environment, we have identified failures of the institutions to account for psychological stressors associated with HE. One of said stressors is the institutional inability and lack of capacity to restructure understandings. The UK, as a one of the major former colonial and imperial forces, anachronistically attempted to rebuild a society on the basis of tolerance and diversity, particularly after the United Nation’s Resolution 1514 to decolonize imperial territories in 1960. While facades are easy to alter, the spirit, in the philosophical-legal understanding, is complex in its structure and composition, making it harder to change.

Even though racism and discrimination on the basis of race have been legally deemed unacceptable and in some cases punishable by law, carriers of the racist beliefs have remained vigilant in the way they disseminate within society. This is evidenced by the noticeable negligence of some White students we spoke to towards racial issues. Contrastingly, students of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) affiants have stressed the centricity of ethnic background to their experiences. Not only did we find that students of minority ethnic backgrounds feel ‘out of place’, which was expected after establishing that the hegemonic bloc sets the boundaries for normalcy and by extension defines the social contract to govern and police disenfranchised social blocs, but we also found that students have internalized their respective position within the society. For instance, students of White ethnic backgrounds are less likely to notice or comment on ethnic diversity within classrooms, while BAME students report an increasing awareness it (Wong, ElMorally, Copsey-Blake, Highwood, and Singearyer, 2020).

Upon further investigation and analysis, we argue that the intersection of race with the affinity bias can be a cause of the discrepancies observed. Some of our White students were disinterested and aloof, indicative of lack of awareness towards privilege as a result of their race. Some of the students who emphasized such characteristics were more defiant and reacted less favourably when presented with buzzwords such as Affirmative Action. This in turn changed the tone of conversation from investigative to defensive. Students who reacted in said manner exhibited a basic understanding of ‘White Guilt’ and ‘White Shame’ to defend their position. Unaware of the inherent contradictions of White Guilt and Shame, said students exposed the side-effects of affinity bias; the familiarity of their skin colour blinded them from realizing the bias is indeed an evolutionary cognitive method to foresee threats. However, when left unchallenged, the bias self-actualizes, and any action to prove its validity is used as confirmation, i.e. Confirmation Bias. For instance, an effort by the university to spread the holiday spirit around December/Christmas, but the lack of effort exerted to celebrate other cultures and holidays such as Ramadan, can confirm the affinity bias. To the prejudiced mind, this signals the superiority and importance of one holiday over another, and by extension the superiority/inferiority of one observer of a holiday over another.

On the other hand, minority ethnic students and allies alike, are often aware of the dichotomous environment. However, when one is unconscious of social hierarchies, it is easier to submit to it and, in some cases, reproduce and perpetuate it. This model is called the Stereotype Threat, in which a person feels at risk of confirming an existing negative stereotype about their affinity group. When the ‘vulnerability’, e.g. assumed to be weak because one is a woman, is reiterated to the subject, their performance is undermined and their focus shifts to negating the negative stereotype as opposed to completing the task, compromising the integrity of the results. This means that in situations where the salience of one’s stereotyped group-identity are increased so is one’s vulnerability to the Stereotype Threat.

The intersection between the aforementioned variables and academic performance coincide with the national data on degree awarding and achieving gaps. This makes us believe that in order to enhance the academic performance of minority ethnic students, we must restructure our training and development schemes in place to accommodate for unconscious bias and its effects on the psychology of students.

 

This paper draws on a research paper that is currently under review:

ElMorally, Reham., Wong, Billy., & Copsey-Blake, Meggie. Is being ‘White’ Bad? Understanding Unconscious Racialized Behavior of University Students.

Is That You? A Bystander, Walking By Racism…

Dr Billy Wong, Associate Professor, Institute of Education

 

Calling out racist behaviour, especially to strangers in public, take courage because you never know how others would react. Understandably, you might be concerned about your own safety. You might even doubt and question your judgement. Was that really racism? Or just a misunderstanding? Or just banters between friends? If you interfere, the situation could go out of hand, or even violent. In the end, you decided it is probably best to carry on walking, minding your own business.

Later, you reflected, and thought you could have done something, but assured yourself in that moment, you were unprepared, with little options but to walk. You promised yourself to do better next time, and you know there will be.

With your family, friends and colleagues, you witnessed another episode of racist behaviour. This time, it was more implicit, nuanced and subtle. It was racial microaggression. You were unsure if it was intentional. It was a short comment in a conversation, which was flowing and before long, moved onto another topic. You did not think it was necessary to interrupt the conversation to revisit an earlier remark. So, you decided it is probably best to carry on listening.

Later, you reflected, and thought you could have done something, but assured yourself in that moment, you were unsure and no one else seemed troubled by it, so it was probably nothing. You promised yourself to do better next time, and you know there will be.

Being a bystander may be our default position on issues we feel unfamiliar, unprepared and unsure, but we must not get too comfortable in this role. If silence is complicity, then we must actively retrain our passive mindsets. We have activists who are challenging the inequalities of the status quo, but we need more, a lot more. Are you ready?

 

P.S. We can easily substitute racist behaviour and racism with other social inequalities, such as sexist behaviour and sexism, or more broadly, just unacceptable behaviours.

 

 

 

Inspired by our recent article: Wong, B., ElMorally, R., Copsey-Blake, M., Highwood, E., & Singarayer, J. (2020). Is race still relevant? Student perceptions and experiences of racism in higher education. Cambridge Journal of Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/0305764X.2020.1831441

 

Raising undergraduate aspirations through career mentoring?

Tania Lyden, Career Consultancy Lead: curriculum and academic engagement, July 2020

The Thrive Career Mentoring evaluation reports for undergraduates at the University of Reading showed that mentoring had raised 41% of mentees career aspirations: convincing given the potential mentoring seems to have for influencing social mobility. To harness these findings to influence the University’s Graduate Outcomes, we needed to better understand the processes involved. We needed to know which of our mentees had raised career aspirations and examine whether particular widening participation (WP) students were benefitting or not  How had this change in aspiration happened? What processes were involved and how could we enhance the scheme?

From previous career mentoring research, certain theories and studies had come to the fore to help understand how mentoring worked, particularly in relation to WP students. These included: Bourdieu’s work on social reproduction and subsequent theories such as Hodkinson’s ‘horizons for action’; career identity theories (Meijers & Lengelle, 2012) and employability models  (Dacre-Pool & Sewell, 2007), (Tomlinson, 2017), including self-efficacy, (Bandura, 1977) alongside theories on mentoring processes ( (Kram, 1983), (Bouquillon, Sosik, & Lee, 2005), (Ragins, 1997)).

What emerged were several questions. Did mentoring provide students with a changed view of the labour market (field[1]), whether more detailed, broader or simply different and what was the impact of this: greater self-efficacy in relation to a specific career and a shift in career identity? Did mentees experience changes in their ‘habitus’[2]  or get a better sense of the tactics necessary, or ‘feel for the game’, for those roles? Did this also impact on their self-efficacy about securing a more aspirational role? Did mentoring processes such as cognitive overlap between mentor and mentee, recognition, identification, integration and trust feature and were their aspirational shifts consequences to this?

The current before and after surveys for career mentoring were adjusted to ask about student perceptions around career aspiration before and after mentoring, with analysis around why mentee’s perceived it had happened and also some analysis of the shift in occupations sought. This would reveal which students had raised aspirations. Focus groups would deliver a better understanding of the processes involved. However, this approach became challenging and interviews were opted for instead. Importantly, survey analysis revealed that what mentees viewed as raised aspirations, for the most part, did not seem to be. The researcher used the interviews to explore this misunderstanding about raised aspirations and why mentees answered yes, when their reasoning behind the answer suggested otherwise and what this meant for the mentoring programme. Unfortunately, only two WP students volunteered to take part in deeper qualitative research so each was undertaken as a case study.  The research revealed some interesting results. Firstly, a higher percentage of mentees from BAME groups and/or NSSEC category 4, 5, 6 and 7 reported raised aspirations compared to non BAME mentees and mentees from NSSEC categories 1, 2 and 3. Conversely, mentees reporting disabilities and/or who had lived in low participation neighbourhoods (Polar Q 1 and 2) had a lower percentage reporting raised aspirations. After analysing any association between these characteristics and raised aspirations using Chi Square tests, it was revealed that none of these results were statistically significant. The tests relied on small numbers of participants for the WP categories particularly, but the Chi Squared tests were valid.

Secondly, our qualitative survey analysis revealed only a handful of students had actually adjusted their career goals. What the others reported was feeling more focused regarding their career options (31%), having chosen a specific career path (24%), feeling more ambitious (7%), broadening their outlook (5%), feeling more certain about their career choice (5%) and having higher self-belief about their chosen career option (5%). The pie chart shows this breakdown. What this reveals is that for the vast majority of mentees their journey seemed to be more about making career choice progress and/or feeling more committed and ready to apply for the roles they aspired to do, rather than aspiring to ‘higher level’ roles. Without career mentoring, they may not have made a choice, not been committed enough, have lacked self-belief and potentially reverted to non-graduate level applications.

In terms of shedding light on the processes involved, the two interviews provided rich, useful data. The participant names have been changed to ensure privacy.

Jack was a male, part two, BAME mentee and a mature student. He clearly displayed higher self-efficacy due to achieving a more realistic, up close view of the career he aspired to, and the lifestyle that accompanied it, through his relationship with his mentor. This seemed to show symbolic modelling (Bandura, 1977). 

I feel it’s been less about raising my goals as about specifying them. Again, making them more realistic, actually making them a reality. It’s become a lotless nebulous now. It looks a lot more concrete now.

He received reassurance from a likeminded, yet demographically different, role model and this seemed key to him feeling like the career was right for him and that he had a good chance of success. This relationship showed clear cognitive overlap and some integration of identities, and although only this case seemed to support the idea that similarity enabled trust and identification to occur, this led to successful outcomes for Jack.

As much as this sounds attractive, and I think it’s the right call, I’m not really certain that may be once I get into it, it may be will kill me a little bit on the inside or something. Um, after the mentoring scheme I feel very definitely, no I’ve made the right call here.

Suhanna was a female BAME mentee who had almost no cognitive overlap with her mentor and was re-exploring her career identity having strongly identified with one of her parent’s careers and since rejected it. There was little bonding and no identification and only limited progress for her in terms of career direction. Both Jack and Suhanna gained a new view of the labour market ‘field’ and this resulted in a highly evolved understanding of the role and employability tactics for Jack and a huge opening up of career options for Suhanna. Neither raised their aspirations, but Jack ended up certain about his career identity and how to realise it and Suhanna realised that the answer to her career journey was to explore further career options and could see a way forward. It seems that Suhanna’s self-efficacy in her ability to navigate the career decision making process had increased, perhaps as a result of performance exposure (Bandura, 1977), in the form of exploring many new career options. She had another placement planned to explore a subsequent career option.

I wanted to aspire to be like my Dad, I want to be successful, I wanted to be in finance and the more I’ve grown up, the more I’ve realised I was, not naïve, but I just didn’t realise what else was out there. So I guess that’s what mentoring has made me realise.

A clearer career identity seemed to accelerate mentoring benefits, but progress can still be made if mentees are early in the career choice process and that building self-efficacy around applying the career decision making process is fruitful. Having mentor/mentee common ground helps and that with a well formed mentee career identity that common ground can include career interests. Cognitive overlap seemed to enable identification and comparisons between the mentee and the mentor such that the mentee saw their future self in the mentor’s current self via ‘symbolic modelling’ (Bandura, 1977). However: firstly, that cognitive overlap did not seem to need to be based on demographics. Interestingly Jack and his mentor were very different demographically but had very similar career interests, academic background, personality and work ethic. Secondly, this presented a paradox in that for mentoring outcomes to truly accelerate and reach fruition, students seemed to need better-formed career identities, something which mentoring ideally should help to achieve, but that for those with limited career identities at the outset, building self-efficacy in the career decision making process would help them move forward. Those with poorly formed professional career identities, logically, would be those who have had least exposure to professional graduate roles through their families, friends and communities, making mentoring vital for social mobility.

Several recommendations are made as a result of this research:

•            Matching processes should focus on multi-facetted mentor/mentee cognitive overlap.

•            Mentors should know how well-formed their mentee’s career identities are and encourage mentees to apply the career decision making process and reflect to build self efficacy in it.

•            Mentors and mentees need training and exercises to reflect on common ground, discuss differences and recognise the importance of relationship quality on career mentoring.

•            Mentors should provide mentee’s with mastery experiences as per Bandura’s self-efficacy concept, including providing experiences, if possible, occupational information, vicarious insights into job roles and reassurance as well as honest reflection about a mentee’s emotional reactions to what they learn and the process. This will broaden mentee horizons, deepen knowledge from new vantage points previously unavailable to them plus support about how they feel about it.

•            Scheme organisers need to encourage mentors and mentees to invest in the relationship.

•            Stakeholders need to better understand mentoring processes and how to support them.

To conclude, what originated as a study of career aspiration, evolved into a study of how career mentoring ensures mentees create, develop certainty around and ultimately secure their career aspirations and how schemes can support this to improve graduate outcomes. Aspects of the mechanisms of recognition and identification, habitus and field and self-efficacy all seemed at play.

 

[1] ‘Field’ is a place where agents are based with their positions of power dependent upon the interaction between; the rules of the field, the habitus of the agent and the capital (social, cultural, symbolic) of the agent.

[2] ‘Habitus’ is a repeated set of behaviours, assumptions and judgements that have developed over time due to family socialisation and that particular position in ‘the field’ and scaffolds decisions as a loose framework (Bourdieu, 1990)

 

References

Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall.

Bouquillon, E. A., Sosik, J. J., & Lee, D. (2005). It’s only a phase: examining trust, identification and mentoring functions received across the mentoring phases. Mentoring and Tutoring Partnership Learning, (13): 1-20.

Bourdieu, P. (1990). The Logic of Practice. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Dacre-Pool, L., & Sewell, P. (2007). The key to employability: developing a practical model of graduate employability. . Education and Training, 49(4):277-289.

Kram, K. (1983). Mentoring at work: Developmental relationships in organizational life. Academy of Management Journal, (26): 608-625.

Meijers, F., & Lengelle, R. (2012). Narratives at work: the development of career identity. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 1-20.

Ragins, B. R. (1997). Diversified mentoring relationships in organizations: a power perspective. Academy of Management Review, 22(2): 482-521.

Tomlinson, M. (2017). Forms of graduate capital and their relationship to employability. Education and Training, 59(4): 338-352.