I am delighted that Amy York, Chair of the Access HE BAME Forum, has written this piece for my blog. Many thanks Amy – and all my colleagues in London Higher’s AccessHE division.
I’m really not a natural born leader, nor do I see myself as a BAME expert, but I applied to be Chair of the AccessHE BAME forum last year because I wanted to be more involved with the direction the forum was taking. I also chose to apply because of the friendly forum members. I knew they were going to be supportive bunch of people and with their varied knowledge I thought they’d be a great group to lead!
And yes, I was right!
The social media campaign Students of Colour is our first project produced by the AccessHE BAME forum, and I cannot wait to see the initial collection of submissions released as part of AccessHE Week 2018. Students of Colour is a collection of personal stories told by a diverse range of students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, aiming to share the varied lived experiences of students of colour across a range of institutions, celebrating them and their views. You can follow the project via our Instagram and Twitter pages.
In our first few meetings as a forum, we talked about the concerns prospective students may have around entering higher education, especially given media attention around ethnicity attainment gaps and the low numbers of certain groups of BME students admitted into the most selective universities. We also discussed the labels of ‘BAME’ and ‘BME’, and how they might serve to hide what’s really happening in the HE sector. When discussing our individual institutions, different issues were coming up for Asian students, for Black students, and for students with different religious beliefs, which showed us that the BAME student experience is multifaceted.
This also echoes a recent Wonkhe article which spoke about being transfixed on the numbers and not taking the time to look at the qualitative experiences, i.e. the stories behind the numbers. Quoting Jess Moody, Senior Policy Advisor at Advance HE, “for every quantitative conversation you’ve had in your institution, think about what qualitative experiences you’re missing: find ways of prioritising more complex narratives that are intersectional, individual and authentic.”
With this in mind we decided to attempt to uncover the varied experiences of all students of colour, and thus, came up with idea of a social media campaign. In the style of ‘Humans of New York’, we hope to create an attractive campaign for current and prospective students of colour across London and beyond to engage with.
Forum members are currently asking their own students of colour to submit their stories, offering honest accounts of the highs or lows of their journey into higher education, or the successes and challenges of studying at university now. Back when I was a prospective student, I would have loved to have heard from students like me and from backgrounds like mine, giving me the real insight into university life. For someone to say, “if you don’t find people you identify with on your course, you’ll find them elsewhere, through societies, halls, friends of friends” would have been really reassuring, and may have made me think twice about certain institutions. These genuine accounts are usually missing from prospectuses and university websites, so having a platform to broadcast these stories is a great starting point.
The AccessHE BAME Forum offers an opportunity for London universities to come together, discuss the issues our BAME students have with access, retention and student success, and come up with ways we can tackle an issue collaboratively, whether that’s in the form of an event, a research project, or creating something like Students of Colour. Working together means we can pool our expertise, share ideas and come up with something that we, perhaps, don’t have the time or resources to implement at our individual institutions.
If you’re interested in getting involved with Students of Colour or the AccessHE BAME forum, please feel free to get in touch with Sam Turner, AccessHE London Programmes Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by Amy York, Senior Access Officer (Policy and Development) at UCL and Chair of the AccessHE BAME Forum