What was the activity?
The Student Inclusive Curriculum Consultancy project at Solent University in Southampton plays an important role in our strategic ambition to be an inclusive higher education institution where students from all backgrounds can thrive and achieve their potential. Students are recruited to the position of Student Inclusive Curriculum Consultant and receive comprehensive training and support to work in partnership with staff across the institution to reflect on and enhance the inclusivity of learning, teaching and assessment. Over the past two years, they have worked with staff teaching over 350 modules, across all Faculties, to identify and implement inclusivity enhancement actions. Cross institutional student partnership academic development initiatives such as ours are still somewhat of a rarity in higher education, compared to those nested within academic departments and courses (Burns et al., 2019; Hughes et al., 2019; Jessop et al., 2019; Cunningham et al., 2022 provide some notable exceptions).
Central to the success of this project has been our recognition and valuing of diverse student perspectives in pedagogic co-creation (Lygo-Baker et al., 2019; de Bie, et al., 2021). We have been proactive in ensuring that the project recruits from student groups which are typically under-represented in student voice initiatives. For example, two thirds of our most recent Student Inclusive Curriculum Consultants are Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic (BAME) students. This has involved using creative approaches to engaging the most hard-to-reach parts of our student population, with the Consultants themselves becoming strong ambassadors for the project. Positive action has also been implemented in the recruitment process to remove unnecessary barriers that might prevent students from applying to this role (for example, making the positions paid, offering flexible working, using inclusive language in the job advert and promoting equality for protected groups).
The Student Inclusive Curriculum Consultants are assigned to areas of our academic provision that have the largest BAME student numbers and starkest awarding gaps. This metrics-led approach helps us work towards the ambitions of our AdvanceHE Race Equality Charter Bronze Award and implement targeted action where we can make the biggest difference with the resource available. Since the project’s inception, the Consultants have worked in partnership with these course teams to make positive changes to the inclusivity of their curriculum that enable the success not just of BAME students but all learners. Examples of changes include representing diversity in the curriculum, diversifying content and reading lists, allowing greater optionality in assessment, and creating learning outcomes with an equality and diversity focus. The project has also inspired several academic teams to put co-created initiatives into effect within their own disciplinary contexts, helping Solent University build a culture of student/staff partnership working in inclusivity enhancement. As the BAME attainment gap trend data becomes available, we will be able to monitor whether student outcomes have improved in the context of this work.
How did it impact you or your students?
The Student Inclusive Curriculum Consultants have themselves gained valuable employment experience which has developed their equality, diversity and inclusivity skills making them future ready for working in a global and diverse world. Reflecting on the role, one of our recent graduates commented:
“The role taught me to critically reflect and notice things that I would not have even considered before. Being a white, straight female, I have come to understand my privileges and have begun to try and use them to speak out against injustice in the industry that I now work in. Being a Student Inclusive Curriculum Consultant is a great experience and something I will take with me for the rest of my life.”
To date, 35 Solent University students have benefitted from the opportunities that working on the Solent University Student Inclusive Curriculum Consultancy Project offers. This year we will be building on previous project successes and expanding the team to lead a further 20 students from our central Learning and Teaching Service to support University-wide inclusive curriculum enhancement.
Any advice for others?
- Centrally-led student/staff partnership projects can help deliver key strategic agendas such as inclusive curriculum enhancement. Get students involved in this cross institutional work!
- Proactively involving students from diverse backgrounds in inclusivity enhancement helps to bring rich and diverse perspectives to pedagogy. Spend time and effort to get engagement from the hardest to reach student groups.
- Students involved in pedagogic co-creation need to understand how the skills gained are transferable to real world industries. Support students to articulate their experiences into CV and job interview language.
Burns, T., Sinfield, S. and Abegglen, S. (2019) ‘Third space partnerships with students: Becoming educational together, International Journal for Students as Partners, 3(1), pp. 60-68. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v3i1.3742
Cunningham, C., Cunningham, T., Tanka, F., Caspary, I., O’Hara, K. and Gardiner, S. (2022) ‘Soothing something deeper still: Reflections on an academic development-student partnership’. International Journal for Students As Partners, 6(1), pp. 90–98. https://doi.org/10.15173/ijsap.v6i1.4888
De Bie, A., Marquis, E., Cook-Sather, A. and Luqueno, L. P. (2021) Promoting equity and justice through pedagogical partnership. Stylus Publishers.
Hughes, A., Michener, C., Mohamed, K. and McDuff, F, N., (2019) ‘Curriculum co-creation as a transformative strategy to address differential student outcomes: the example of Kingston University’s Student Curriculum Consultant Programme’. Compass, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.21100/compass.v12i1.955
Jessop, T., Saunders, C. and Ponchin, C. (2019) ‘The challenges of doing academic development as a first job: am I doing it right?’ International Journal for Academic Development, 24(4), pp. 217-329. https://doi.org/10.1080/1360144X.2018.1555758
Lygo-Baker, S., Kinchin, M. and Winstone, N. (2019) Engaging student voices in higher education: Diverse perspectives and expectations in partnership. Guildford: Palgrave Macmillan.