Under-represented groups: from acronyms to outputs
A new work stream brings with it many acronyms! As the Collaborative Outreach Officer, I help co-ordinate the work Go Higher West Yorkshire (GHWY) does with the under-represented group networks that we’ve formed. Before listing them, I thought it’d help to provide a bit of background.
If you’re reading this blog post, you may have an interest in Widening Participation (WP). At GHWY, we work on access and success in Higher Education (HE) across 13 HE providers, so that those who want to go to HE can thrive. As a consortium, we recognise certain groups are less likely to access HE, have higher non-continuation rates, and (if they overcome barriers to graduate) may not progress into training, employment or further study.
Following consultation with members, we established four under-represented group networks to work towards collaborative outputs and share experiences. The groups are: white working-class males; care experienced young people and estranged students; Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students; and disabled students.
In the first instance, we held introductory meetings with each group. These highlighted that there is still a lot of work to do! For example, the use of the BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) acronym with discussion around alternatives or whether the measure for working-class should be Free School Meals (FSM), Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD) or something else entirely. Also, the use of Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) in schools but disabled students in HE or how Care Experienced Young People (CEYP) and care leavers are used interchangeably but they don’t mean the same thing. It can be hard to know where to start…
The question then is how do we go from these acronyms to producing collaborative outputs? Firstly, recognise that the conversations around the previous paragraph still need to continue and at a broader/society level. Secondly, each network will agree on 2-3 outputs to work on in the longer term. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, these networks belong to their members and so are shaped by them. Each HE provider across GHWY was invited to nominate a staff member for the under-represented groups, meaning a diverse mix of individuals working in the same area.
To end, I thought I’d give you a flavour of the practical outputs we hope to execute through the under-represented group networks. For disabled students, there is an ‘exit pack’ (working name!) to bring together information from students on their needs with information from HEs on the support available. To complement this, there will be accessibility training.
With Black Asian and Minority Ethnic students, the network will focus on producing guidelines to support the development of a reverse mentoring scheme (in which students mentor staff).
As a care experienced young person or estranged student at HE, it can feel like you’re the only one so an output for this network centres around student voice. Current/past students who also fall into that group will share their experiences through one-off letters for incoming students.
The white working-class males network will meet in March 2022 and agree on actions then. As I said before, the networks are very much led by their members.
I look forward to co-ordinating the future activity of the work GHWY does with under-represented groups and seeing these outputs come to life!
Tahera Mayat, GHWY Collaborative Outreach Officer