Key findings, recommendations and final report.
The Task Group's final report was approved by Senate Learning and Teaching Committee (LTC).
The key findings of both the student and staff consultations were as follows:
- Stimulating Curriculum – the students responding to the consultation felt the curriculum should reflect the University’s diverse international intake of students in order to stimulate them while they are here and prepare them for the rapidly changing and demographically diverse world into which they will move as graduates. Students wanted a more international approach which reflected more global perspectives.
- The Canon - the students felt that the historically rooted ‘canon’ can dominate disciplines and can lead to a narrow and restrictive approach to the curriculum.
- Risk - some students indicated that, while it can be positive for students to work with staff to identify new ways to diversify the curriculum, in some cases academic staff can be reluctant to address the issue – and that students can feel exposed if they raise the issue.
- Representation – the students were clear on the importance of having academic and professional service staff from a diverse range of backgrounds and characteristics. Students also felt that having staff with the backgrounds and experiences similar to them could provide role models and leaders to challenge feelings of isolation, marginalisation, alienation and exclusion sometimes experienced by students from under-represented groups.
- Practical Examples – staff responding to the consultation were generally supportive in principle but were less likely than students to be clear on how to engage with this agenda in their disciplinary contexts.
- Workload & Priorities – staff were unclear as to what proportion of academic staff will be able to treat this as a high priority issue, given common concerns about workloads and competing priorities.
- Disciplinary Context – some staff were concerned that some disciplinary contexts would be challenging to ‘decolonising’ as they were based on a more ‘objective’ scientific approaches than other more subjective disciplines.
- Broader ‘Curriculum’ – staff noted the need to emphasis the broad view of ‘curriculum’ in this context - more than reading lists or content - also about the learning environment, approaches to assessment, and other aspects of the student learning experience.
Since the issues regarding inclusion, equality and diversity in the curriculum will vary between disciplines, it is likely that discipline-level activity will be more important than institutional activity. However, LTC asked the task group to identify some relatively modest potential steps at institutional level which would support and add value to local discipline-specific projects.
The following are the Task Group’s key recommendations:
- Benchmarking - the proposed approach should be broadly in line with the approach of similar UK higher education institutions.
- Practice Sharing - to assist staff to understand ways to engage with this agenda in particular disciplinary contexts.
- Non-prescriptive - given that it is necessary to address these issues in a range of different discipline-specific ways, and that staff have varied levels of understanding about appropriate ways to engage, it would not be appropriate at this stage to embed inclusion, equality and diversity into curriculum approval in a prescriptive way. To do so would not only risk a mechanistic ‘tick-box’ approach, but would also be problematic since the University could not explain exactly what it requires Schools to do. Instead, at this stage, it is more appropriate to focus on training and development for key staff involved in curriculum development and approach (e.g. Directors of Teaching, Conveners of Boards of Studies), and exploring ways to address these issues through collaborative curriculum design approaches.
- Quality Assurance - for the same reasons, it is not appropriate at this stage to embed the issue into annual quality assurance. However, the standard remit for Internal Programme Reviews should provide a more explicit opportunity to explore how review areas are approaching the issue. At a future point, once the University is able to provide greater clarity about how to address these issues across different disciplinary, the University should incorporate the issue into annual quality assurance.
- Curriculum Review - while the Task Group’s recommendations (see report Annex D) will make a valuable contribution to this agenda (in conjunction with local disciplinary activities), institutional success in developing a curriculum that delivers the Principles is dependent on broader institutional issues. For example, the recommendations would have greater impact when implemented within a broader institutional curriculum review process. It is also important that academic work allocation models allow staff sufficient time to review and develop the curriculum, and that the University’s staff profiles are diverse.
- Staff Engagement - while the recommendations assign responsibilities to particular departments and to particular School staff office-holders, all academic staff, along with staff in relevant professional services roles, have a responsibility to engage with this agenda.
- Local Evaluation - since the issues regarding inclusion, equality and diversity in the curriculum will vary between disciplines, it is more appropriate to evaluate the impact of this activity at School than institutional level.