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Positive outcomes for all examines how potential differences in the outcomes of disadvantaged students are identified and addressed so that students from all backgrounds achieve positive outcomes.


The Bridge Project, based in Northumbria’s Faculty of Engineering and Environment, has produced a good practice guide to promote diversity and inclusion in educational resources.

The Inclusive Design for Learning video below provides some simple accessibility guidelines to remember when creating any digital content. Alternatively, you can read or download the full guidance. Guidance on using Ally and Ally Module Reports is available on the University’s Teaching Learning and Development website. You can also get a copy of Tips for Digital Content Accessibility.

The video below offers a short introduction to the ideas behind the growing movement in UK higher education to decolonise curricula. Links to examples of good practice can be found underneath it.

SOAS Decolonising the Curriculum Toolkit

Kingston University Inclusive Curriculum Framework

Closing the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Attainment Gap

Special Issue of Compass: Journal of Learning and Teaching Vol 12, No 1(2019): Creating conditions for student success tools and frameworks thataddress student attainment gaps

Blog: Teaching academic skills as a decolonising pedagogy

A US Perspective: 'We know what works to close the completion gap'

Equality and Diversity Transcript

Hello! My name is Claire Sutherland. I’m head of the teaching excellence and student outcomes team here at Northumbria University.

Equality and Diversity initiatives in the context of higher education usually take the Equality Act 2010 as their starting point. There are nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act, and discrimination due to one or more of these characteristics is unlawful under the Act. These are: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership (in employment only), pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation. Intersectionality is the term used to refer to the specific effect of having two or more characteristics at once, for example relating to disability, sexual orientation and race.

Socioeconomic disadvantage is often referred to as an unofficial tenth characteristic. Widening participation initiatives seek to increase the proportion of underrepresented groups in Higher Education. Universities are also required to complete an access and participation plan for the Office for Students to show how they are tackling underrepresentation and also differential attainment between different groups of students. Data shows that there are significant attainment gaps in Higher Education. For example, black and minority ethnic students on average are less likely to gain a 2.1 or a 1st class degree than white students, and Northumbria is no exception. The Teaching Excellence Framework, known as TEF, explicitly considers the extent to which Universities achieve positive outcomes for disadvantaged groups.

In terms of teaching and learning, equality and diversity is closely related to an inclusive curriculum, one that reflects a range of perspectives and does not unquestioningly follow a white, male, Western canon. Advance HE defines an inclusive curriculum as improving the experience, skills and attainment of all students, including those in protected characteristic groups. The aim is for all students to be able to participate fully in their learning and to see themselves reflected in what they are taught. This links to authentic assessment, for example, which assesses students in ways that are meaningful to them, maybe by choosing their own topic, or having ‘real world’ applicability. The current gold standard is curriculum co-design, whereby students are involved in deciding what and how they are taught, but this can be interpreted and applied in many ways. Links to how some Universities approach an inclusive curriculum are below. Northumbria is committed to an inclusive curriculum in principle and is in the early stages of developing it in practice.

There are also two frameworks to promote equality and diversity in higher education, the Athena SWAN Charter and the Race Equality Charter, both now managed by AdvanceHE. Athena Swan promotes gender parity for staff and students, and was extended in 2015 to cover all subjects and to include trans students and staff. The race equality charter is dedicated to improving the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education. Northumbria currently subscribes to the first and not the second. These charters focus, among other things, on the rates of progression and promotion of staff and students, and their working environment, and are less concerned with the content of the curriculum and classroom practice.

Decolonising the curriculum transcript

Hello! My name is Claire Sutherland. I’m head of the teaching excellence and student outcomes team here at Northumbria University, and also a professor of politics.

Northumbria University has made a number of commitments to equality and diversity, one of which is to an inclusive curriculum. This connects, in turn, to current debates around decolonising the curriculum.
Decolonising the curriculum encompasses anti-racist classroom practice and pedagogies, which largely overlap with inclusive teaching, in addition to a decolonising approach to the curriculum.
Decolonising the curriculum digs deeper than including more international content or a more diverse range of BAME (British and Minority Ethnic) or LGBTQ+ perspectives, important as this is. It actually goes further, to ask why some voices have been silenced or drowned out, and aims to dismantle structural inequality and institutional racism in higher education teaching. It is explicitly about colonialism and the legacy of Empire. So, it interrogates and challenges dominant, Eurocentric and Anglo-American hierarchies of knowledge and assumptions of whiteness as the norm. Arguably, it also extends to the legacy of class stratification during Britain’s age of industrialisation and Empire. As such, it goes further than Equality and Diversity initiatives designed to address inequalities, like diversifying reading lists, that tend to take the 2010 Equality Act as a starting point. Rather, it critically analyses the mindsets and long-standing social structures that enable inequalities to exist and persist in the first place, and reflects on and revisits curricula as a consequence. An excellent place to read more about decolonising the curriculum is SOAS’s very clear toolkit of questions that cover both curriculum and classroom practice, and which is freely available online.
The impetus for change came from students at SOAS, but decolonising is now part of SOAS’ institutional vision, and includes explicit reference to the attainment gap between BAME and white students. Kingston University’s Inclusive Curriculum Framework approach to closing their attainment gap is also sector leading. Let’s continue the conversation at Northumbria.

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