Posted Thursday 18 January 2024
Kingston University has received almost £100,000 funding from the Royal Society of Chemistry to help create lasting change by improving the representation, progression and retention of chemical scientists from Black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
The Society's Missing Elements Grants Scheme invited universities across the UK and Ireland to apply for funding to address racial and ethnic inequalities in the chemical sciences, following a report published by the Society, highlighting inequalities and a lack of diversity across the sector's academic community. Kingston's joint submission, developed in conjunction with the University of Brighton and Imperial College London, was one of 10 successful bids.
Led by Kingston, it will support a three-year project that will be split into three parts. It will get under way with a survey conducted among students across the three institutions to see how the terminology currently used within the chemical sector is understood so it can be made more accessible.
Once their responses have been evaluated and common themes identified, Kingston University will form an advisory group made up of staff specialising in chemical and social sciences from across the three institutions. They will work with a resource developer, funded through the grant, for 12 months to develop easy-to-understand toolkits to help those teaching any chemical sciences subject deliver a fully inclusive education.
Kingston University's Head of Department for Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Dr Baljit Thatti, led the grant bid and said, "There's already a considerable amount of good practice in other universities, but this isn't currently joined up across the chemical sciences sector, the new toolkits will support academics with example case studies of how we can have engaging conversations with students around equality and inclusion, whilst still delivering the fundamental chemistry. These will equip students to be more globally aware of the impact of chemistry."
Learnings from the project will be shared across Kingston, Brighton and Imperial's campuses, with the three institutions also planning to host a conference to share knowledge and best practice with delegates from other universities across the United Kingdom. The project team hopes the toolkits will also be published on the Society's website to make them as accessible as possible to fellow academics. "This funding enables us to have evidence backing guiding us to create and sustain a community of practice," Dr Thatti said.
Longer term, it is hoped that the project will lead to changes in how the chemistry curriculum is taught and an increase in the number of those from minority ethnic backgrounds in senior positions.
"We need to work with industry partners as part of this grant to make sure students graduating feel they both belong and are included in the working world. It's vital we have diverse voices at the table and hopefully this project can play an important part in starting those conversations," Dr Thatti added.