Pioneers project

The ‘Pioneers’ research project looked at how we can best support higher education access for young people from different BAME backgrounds. There are six key recommendations. 

What was the research about?

The ‘Pioneers’ research project looked at how we can best support higher education access for young people from different BAME backgrounds. The research explored how students feel about university access, mental health and wellbeing. The research also looked at variation in responses by ethnicity to see how student ethnicity might impact decisions about higher education. It was targeted at students in year 12/the first year of a college course. The final report was published at the end of 2021. This project is delivered in collaboration with The University of Reading. 

The recommendations from the report

This report set out with an aim of hearing the authentic voice of BAME young people and considering their specific barriers and facilitators, taking a more granular approach to ethnicity to identify if there are any specific differences between ethnicities that sit within the BAME umbrella. There are six key recommendations from the report for institutions and four for outreach practitioners.

Recommendation 1

Understand your target demographic

This report has highlighted differences in perceptions and expectations of university amongst young people from different ethnicities. Where possible, identify the make up of your target audience and tailor your content as appropriate to meet their needs. For example, if you know that you are going in to deliver to a group with a large South Asian population you may wish to mention support for commuting students, good transport links to allow easy travel “home” and information about campus safety which could be shared with parents to ease concerns about the young person moving out.

Recommendation 2

Engage parents/carers and ensure that information provided is both helpful and accessible.

Support the supporters of young people with materials which explain the application process and how they can support their young person. Consider providing this material in other languages to increase accessibility.

Recommendation 3

Be explicit in your institution’s commitment to anti-racism, diversity and inclusion

Be clear on how issues of racism are dealt with within your institution and your institutional stance on racism. Ensure your promotional material and Student Ambassadors are reflective of your student population. Recruiting diverse staff teams would ensure that young people come into contact with a range of staff, helping to break the image that universities are “male and pale”.

Recommendation 4

Ensure marketing material is balanced and “authentic” to give prospective students a true and balanced picture.

Make use of “authentic student voice” in marketing materials. Encourage “student takeovers” of official social media channels. Show reality and not just perfection (or prospective students will go and find it somewhere else!)

Recommendation 5

Ensure information is clear and easy to find – especially on institution websites.

Ensure information about entry requirements, module choices, teaching hours and assessment methods are easily found on your institution website. Where possible and appropriate share reading lists. Graduate outcomes, rankings and wider student life are all important factors when making decisions about university and so should also be easy to find.

Student Ambassadors at the University of Oxford

Recommendation 6

Provide opportunities for prospective students to meet and talk with current students.

While this is common practice for many institutions it was worth adding as it came up so frequently as a top choice from interview respondents. Prospective students are most interested in speaking to current students studying the same degree programme as they are intending to study – but there may be added benefits to being able to speak to a current student from a similar background to themselves.

For outreach practitioners

Recommendation 1: Understand your target demographic
This report has highlighted differences in perceptions and expectations of university amongst young people from different ethnicities. Where possible, identify the make up of your target audience and tailor your content as appropriate to meet their needs. For example, if you know that you are going in to deliver to a group with a large South Asian population you may wish to mention support for commuting students, good transport links to allow easy travel “home” and information about campus safety which could be shared with parents to ease concerns about the young person moving out.

Recommendation 2: Understand your own biases and assumptions
Everyone has unconscious biases; the challenge is being aware of them and adapting your behaviour appropriately. Engage with EDI training provided by your institution to make sure that you are skilled and confident in identifying your own biases and how you can challenge these. Be aware when you are making assumptions about young people and challenge yourself where necessary.

Recommendation 3: Showcase diversity, highlight support for BAME learners and challenge racism
Consider the images you use in any presentations, where possible use a diverse range of student ambassadors and make sure that you are aware of the support networks, societies and spaces for BAME learners at your institution. Accept that you cannot understand the lived experience of young people from different backgrounds to yourself, but that you can signpost to support and reassure. Debunk myths and stereotypes and be prepared to challenge racism should it occur.

Recommendation 4: Understand the admissions process yourself

For those who work in Recruitment & Outreach, and for those who work outside of a higher education institution the admissions process can seem complicated and daunting. Understanding what happens at different stages of the process as a practitioner can help you demystify and explain the system for young people. For example, a young person might not be aware that an institution does not see their ethnicity at the point of application and they might be concerned about institutional bias or racism, but by knowing the system you can reassure them that this is not the case and that their application will be treated fairly.

 

 

CONTACT US

If you have any further questions or queries, or would like to know more, please do not hesitate to contact either Kizzi Keast (k.keast@reading.ac.uk) or Dr Ciara McCabe (c.mccabe@reading.ac.uk) who will get back to you as soon as possible.

 

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