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Northumbria pledges to support Gypsy, Roma, and Traveller communities

7th June 2021

The logo of the Gypies, Travellers, Roma, Showmen and Boaters into Higher Education campaignNorthumbria University has signed a National pledge to promote access to higher education for Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showman and Boater (GTRSB) communities.

In backing the GTRSB into Higher Education Pledge, the University marks its firm commitment to undertaking steps to support GTRSB students into, and within, higher education.

Barriers to GTRSB pupils’ achievement begin early on, during compulsory education, and continue to exert their influence in further and higher education study. Research shows that there are very few GTRSB university students and graduates in the UK, with an estimated average of 200 members of the communities in higher education at any one time.

Professor Andrew Wathey CBE, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University said: “We recognise that members of GTRSB communities experience considerable inequalities in access to education, along with prejudice and discrimination in everyday life.

“As a university we value diversity, and we are determined to ensure we provide an inclusive environment for all. In signing up to this pledge we commit to better understanding the experience of our GTRSB students and staff, so that we can work collaboratively to create environments where everyone feels welcomed, supported, and able to thrive.

Northumbria’s pledge comes during Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month which the University is marking with a number of events.

One of the events includes a dedicated radio broadcast ‘The Open Page’ which will showcase stories from GTRSB individuals collected as part of an arts project delivered in partnership between Dr Natalie Forster, Research Fellow in the Department of Social Work, Education and Community Wellbeing at Northumbria University and Skimstone Arts, with support from Arts Council England and Garfield Weston Foundation. Listeners can tune in to Skimstone Radio on Monday 7 June at 1pm, to hear songs, stories, spoken word pieces and poems about the importance of learning and higher education opportunities for GTRSB communities.

The University will also illuminate its Students’ Union building overnight on 7 June to mark Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month and celebrate the diverse ways in which the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities add to the vibrancy of life in the UK now and in the past.

Speaking about the pledge, Martin Gallagher, PhD student at Northumbria University, said: “For me, as an Irish Traveller, and many Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students around the UK, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller History Month (GRTHM) is an important opportunity to educate the many institutions within society about the GRT culture, tradition and history, as well as the issues of discrimination and racism, poor health outcomes, and low educational attainment to name just a few issues that we face. The events that we have planned allow us a platform to speak with staff and students about how to make university life better for future GRT students.

“The Pledge helps us have a voice within education, providing us with a place where we feel accepted, represented and welcome. We hope that this initiative will allow GRT students to educate students and staff to make decisions that will make life within universities a more welcoming place for future generations of GRT students.”

The University will also be hosting a talk from Dr Rosaleen McDonagh, a Northumbria PhD graduate who made headlines in 2020 for becoming the first disabled female Traveller to earn a place on the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. Tickets for Dr McDonagh’s talk are available on Eventbrite.

Signing the GTRSB into Higher Education Pledge further strengthens Northumbria’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion and contributes to the University’s Race Equality Charter work.

You can read more about Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion at Northumbria on our website.


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