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Kingston University to lead Advance HE-funded project into how inclusive cultural change can be supported through student engagement

Posted Monday 7 March 2022

Kingston University to lead Advance HE-funded project into how inclusive cultural change can be supported through student engagement

Kingston University has secured funding from Advance HE to lead a project exploring how student engagement programmes can help drive inclusive cultural change across the sector.

The University will work with teams at University Alliance institutions, including Anglia Ruskin University, Birmingham City University, Teesside University, University of Brighton and the University of Hertfordshire on the project, following a successful bid through Advance HE's Collaborative Development Fund.

The six partners will come together to share good practice and discuss engagement programmes they have each developed to support moves towards creating a more inclusive culture within their own institutions. It will lead to the development of a student engagement toolkit and case study materials to support other Advance HE members in their own inclusivity work.

Gaining perspectives from different approaches taken to engaging with students – learning what has worked and what hasn't in a range of circumstances – would be a hugely valuable exercise and help share best practice across the sector, Dr Annie Hughes, Head of the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Centre at Kingston University, said.

"We want to look at the impact a range of student engagement programmes have had on inclusivity. Our discussions will focus on how they have helped elicit change and the ways in which they are ensuring students from all backgrounds are being reflected in those programmes, pulling out the key elements of what works and why to produce cases studies and a toolkit that can be used by other universities," she said.

"As higher education institutions we need to have programmes that recognise inequality and actively work to address those inequalities. That could be supporting those who are first in their family to attend university to feel they belong, navigating the challenges of digital poverty or addressing systemic racism."

One of the elements of Kingston University's inclusive curriculum framework is the use of specialist student consultants who work directly with academics to impact the curriculum, which will be one of the programmes discussed during the Advance HE project.

Tamara Reid, Inclusive Curriculum Consultants Programme Lead at Kingston University, said: "There's often a really engaged cohort of students who put themselves forward as student reps, but how do you hear the voices of those who, for a number of reasons, may not have the confidence to take part or don't feel their contributions would be valued or heard? 

"It's about deconstructing hierarchies and giving students the space and tools they need. We've found that often what students actually want is quite different to what staff might have otherwise assumed. Having a diverse range of perspectives and experiences dialled directly in to curriculum design is incredibly valuable."

The Kingston University-led project is one of 11 to have secured funding through Advance HE's Collaborative Development Fund, which supports the development of member institutions by addressing key sector challenges together, across themed areas including equality, diversity and inclusion, student success, the Professional Standards Framework (PSF), College Based Higher Education and inclusive institutional cultures.

Nick Skeet, Associate Director of Membership & Accreditation at Advance HE, said: "We are delighted to be funding these innovative and exciting project initiatives. These collaborative projects aim to harness the knowledge, experience and innovative capabilities of our members in order to address a range of current challenges within the sector."

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