Heya! So this month has been hella busy with the elections and trying to navigate students returning back to Keele. Unfortunately, we don’t have as much to report on as previous monthly updates but this is what we have been working on in between:

1. We attended a Life Sciences EDI committee meeting to get an idea of what best practice looks like in terms of closing the awarding gap.

On Friday 19th of February, we attended a Life Sciences EDI committee meeting to get an idea of what best practice looks like within a select school. Life Sciences are one of the schools that have come the furthest in recent years in addressing and closing their awarding gap. There we also discussed the need for an internal calendar of events, celebrations and dedicated months to certain causes. Whilst the Students Union took away no specific actions from this meeting, the ability to share ideas with other schools who ask us cannot be understated.

2. we have been involved in interviewing candidates for the pro vice chancellor education role. 

Unfortunately, there are significant challenges in finding candidates with appropriate senior leadership experience, when this is a sector where the vast majority of senior leaders (eligible for the PVC role) are not diverse. The university noted some key conversations with candidates from ethnic minority backgrounds who chose not to apply for the role, for a variety of personal and experience-based reasons.

As a result we look forward to working with the incoming Pro Vice-Chancellor on the need to provide students of colour equal opportunities to their white counterparts, so that they feel capable of applying for senior leadership positions. We’ll be meeting with university leadership over the next few months where we’ll be discussing the need to increase access to postgraduate courses for students of colour, in order to provide the necessary support for leaders and educators of the future to gain the experience and knowledge they require. By doing this, in the long term we hope there will be a truly diverse range of staff at Keele, all with the experience and confidence to make our university a better place for students.

This may be in the form of bursaries and scholarships, or through better informing students of the opportunities provided by continuing their studies. If you have an idea for how we can increase access to postgraduate education for students of colour, we want to hear from you.

3.  We are pleased to share further updates on the University's new hate-crime reporting tool, which will be launched in late March.

In the last update, we made students aware of a new hate-crime reporting tool that the University was planning to develop in response to low engagement with Stop Hate UK. We are pleased to announce that this will be launching in late March, so that students and staff can report issues such as hate crimes, hate incidents and discrimination. 

The report will remain anonymous unless you choose to share your contact details at the end of the form in order to get more support. You will then get further support from either Student Services (students) or Human Resources (staff). If you do not wish to get further support and do not choose to share your contact details, your report will remain anonymous, and you will not receive any follow up emails about your report.  

4. We took part in a national campaign to encourage lecturers to pledge to teach the sustainable development goals.

This year we have taken part in a national campaign organised by SOS UK (Students Organising for Sustainability) which aims to encourage University lecturers to pledge to teach the UN’s sustainable development goals in their teaching. As part of this, staff at the SU have been leading training sessions for student leaders to learn more about the SDGs, how they apply to students, and how they can get involved in the campaign. 

The SDGs are a universal set of goals, targets and indicators that UN member states are expected to use to frame their agendas and political policies from 2015-2030. The SDGs set out a framework for eliminating poverty and inequalities, taking action on climate change and creating a more just and sustainable future for all. 

We know there are concerns that many sustainability campaigns and initiatives do not meet the needs of liberation groups, and often fail to address interlinking issues such as colonialism. We have directly addressed these issues in the training, and this week as part of Keele’s Green Festival, we will be sharing educational posts about the relationship between sustainability and liberation on our social media platforms.

5. We continued the Mythbusters campaign, exploring how the job market is biased towards white people and also addressed the need to recognise all cultural celebrations equally.

Every other week we debunk myths around race. In February we explored how the job market is biased towards white people and also addressed the cultural need to recognise all celebrations equally in the UK. See:

https://keelesu.com/yourunion/campaigns/current/ongoing/bebetterdobetter/mythbusters/mythbuster8/

https://keelesu.com/yourunion/campaigns/current/ongoing/bebetterdobetter/mythbusters/myth9/

6. We are pushing against modifications to degree algorithm calculations that could negatively impact BAME students.

On a more worrisome note, following new sector guidance from UKSCQA (particularly the six principles and indicative mapping of the principles against Keele’s degree algorithms) the university is currently reflecting on the ‘generosity’ of its current degree algorithm calculations - which have not been modified since 2013 and are therefore due for review as many new calculation methods and processes have been introduced since then (e.g. step marking and safety nets). 

Whilst the UKSCQAs guidance is not currently anything more than guidance, we anticipate that it is likely that the sector will be moving in this direction swiftly, and Keele would therefore like to adjust ahead of University’s UK intervention, which has the potential to be less nuanced and much harsher.

As a part of this reflection the university is currently modelling what potential changes could do for our awarding gap, and truthfully, no matter what we do, it’s not good, as this very UKSCQA guidance exists with the intention of reducing ‘good degree inflation’. Upon the realisation that the first attempts at modelling a potential change would result in a significant reduction in ’good degrees’ for BAME students, this idea was scrapped and remodeled. The next meeting is due to take place later this month where the Students’ Union will be continuing to push against any modifications that could unfairly impact some groups of students over others, whilst acknowledging that some change is unavoidable.

7. We completed the second part of staff equity training, specifically looking at how we can tackle barriers to access for different liberation groups.

Over the last two weeks staff at the SU completed equity training over Teams, specifically looking at how we can tackle barriers to access for different liberation groups. In the next update, we will be able to share some of the actions we plan to take at the SU as a result of the training. 

8. We submitted a question to Senate, questioning why the University does not feel confident enough to submit an application for the Race Equality Charter Silver Award.

In 2018/19, the University was awarded the Race Equality Charter Bronze Award. We recently heard news about the University’s work on going forward for reassessment of the Bronze Award in 2022. In response to this, we have submitted a question to Senate questioning why the University has not been planning for the Silver Award since the announcement of the Bronze award. We would like to know why the university feels it has not made enough progress in this time. We await the Vice-Chancellor’s response to this later on in March and will update the response to students. We are pleased with some of the progress made in the last 6 months since the introduction of the Race Equality Officer role, but will still be pushing the university for more progress in terms of race equality. 

 

9. We met with staff from Physiotherapy to discuss the necessity of hearing students voices on wider themes such as decolonisation and hate-crime reporting.

We met with staff from Physiotherapy to discuss the necessity of hearing students voices on wider themes such as decolonisation and hate-crime reporting. We discussed the possibility of setting up an independent Student Network for Physiotherapy (as taking a broader school/ faculty wide approach would make feedback from the group less specific to the course and of course a smaller group would be quicker to set up).

We shared best practice (from Medicinal Chemistry) surrounding the creation of Teams based ‘common rooms’ to be utilised by students to communicate with each other without staff intervention, and also noted Life Sciences approach to decolonising the curriculum and embedding diversity into the core curriculum. We had a good discussion around labels and what the school reasonably hoped to achieve by setting up a student led network. 

Similarly to the EDI meeting with Life Sciences, it was good to take away ideas and share best practice to ensure a joined-up (and consistently paced) approach to our commitment to improve Keele for everyone.

10. We have reported on the representation of BAME students in our elections candidates and will research voter demographics as part of the #BetheBoss campaign.

Now that the SU’s elections are over, we’d like to take the time to report on the outcomes of the #BetheBoss campaign which aimed to encourage more BAME candidates to run for officer positions this year. Of 22 total candidates, 6 candidates (27%) identified as BAME which closely reflects the percentage of BAME students in the Keele student population (30%). As none of the elected candidates identify as BAME, we have decided to take this opportunity to research voter demographics with the hopes of ensuring more BAME representation in the officer team for next academic year.