On the 14th March, I attended an event organised by VITAE at Coventry University that considered the barriers to success for BME researchers. The event was attended by a variety of people that included researchers, research developers, equality and diversity managers and people interested in the developing an equitable experience in higher education.
I was attracted to attend event for two reasons:
- having worked in BAME undergraduate retention and success, I am keenly aware that students from BAME backgrounds who complete their degrees are less likely to graduate with a First Class or an Upper Second Class degree, which is the basic entry qualification for doctoral education.
- working in research development, I have noticed a lack of home BAME researchers: BAME doctoral students, BAME members of the academy in academic roles and therefore BAME academics who are research active.
The event provided the space to discuss the barriers to research for BAME staff and to hear the experience of BAME researchers within the academy. These activities provided me with a lot to think about and I left with a few key thoughts.
- Often we don’t do inclusion properly. Inclusion is taking the best of what diversity has to offer and integrating it in to practice, rather than providing a transition platform for those with diverse background into what is provided.
- Just as belongingness is important for students, it is important for staff too. If you are the only BAME academic in your department, one of a few BAME researchers in an Elite University or one of a few BAME doctoral researchers in a cohort, can you have a sense of belonging?
- Does unconscious bias training actually help remove unconscious bias; especially when it is delivered online?
- What are the barriers for BAME researchers in my organisation and what can I do as a Research Developer to remove some of these?
There is no easy answer to any of these questions, but doing something is better than doing nothing. So here I go again. I need to do some research to understand this area better and then I need to talk to people who can help make a difference.