“It is unfortunate that even in 2019, BAME students still experience inequality in British universities. “
You may have heard of campaigns like #decolonisethecurriculum. Decolonisation, in this sense, is simply demanding that BAME students be treated equally, that reading lists be diversified, and that university staff and student bodies be diversified.
It is unfortunate that even in 2019, BAME students still experience inequality in British universities. Feedback often shows that BAME students seem to have to be ‘over-achieving’ in order to get higher marks. According to a study led by Universities UK in 2018, 78% of white students achieved a first or 2:1, but only 66% of Asian students and just 53% of Black students received those marks. I do not believe that BAME students are any less dedicated. These results reflect that institutional racism remains an unresolved issue. These results similarly match my focus group results, which I led on ‘Decolonising UKC: racism, Islamophobia and Prevent’, whereby students felt that because of the lack of freedom to write about topics relevant to them or not being able to use material from diverse backgrounds, their writing was hindered. Students have also claimed to have experienced some kind of Islamophobia, both on sn institutional level and/or even alienation by peers, again limiting writing and making students feel as though they dont belong to the university. I can tell you from my own experience that oftentimes I write to please the examiner not what I necessarily want to write.
I can also tell you from research and experience that humanities subjects lack diversified reading lists – you may see Talal Asad, Saba Mahmood (both American) but that’s all really. I was lucky to have been introduced to Frantz Fanon and W.E.B. Du Bois (by the only two (temporarily hired) BAME staff in the school). In fact, literature students claim that whenever Black literature was studied, it was only considered in a colonial context; all the while some ‘academics’ tell us to stop ‘using’ our colonial history. There is a canon of literature from the around the world which ‘Western’ academia can benefit from too and so I hope that through projects like this, not just ethnic diversity, but intersectionality as a whole becomes better implemented.
Students from various schools across the university attended focus groups, all of whom reported a lack of diversity among staff and the student body. The university may have ticked the box for employees belonging to BAME backgrounds, but our collective observation tells us that these members of staff are mainly in domestic or entry-level roles. How is this still the case?! Students also felt negatively impacted by the lack of diversity among support staff not only with the lack of males in these roles, but of course a lack of ethnic diversity. Many BAME students report that they feel that there is not a support system that can cater to them; there isn’t staff who can understand us simply because they do not share the same background. It is clear that the student body is yet to fully appreciate intersectionality, particularly in relation to ethnicity, as students still feel that they are not represented.
I am dismayed that in my experience at university, and I know many will agree, that diversity here is still dealt with as an exception or ‘special case’ rather than the norm. But I have hope that this can and will be changed and that soon enough, the future generation will have what some may describe as a privilege, that is, equality!
By Wahida Ahmed, Student, University of Kent