Inclusive curriculum will ensure “HE is fit for the 21st century”, says Leicester academic

An inclusive curriculum will create a Higher Education system that is “fit for the 21st century”, a leading academic at the University of Leicester has said.

In a new report published today, Dr Paul Campbell, Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Leicester argues how by widening taught curriculums, course content will become more directly relevant and relatable to the experiences of all people in a 21st century global Britain.

The report found that the lack of a sufficiently diverse curriculum and faculty meant it was often difficult for black students to be able to connect content and assessments directly to their own lived realities, meaning black students had to “work harder than their peers to connect with both assessment and curriculum content – a point remarked upon by both white and BAME students.”

Dr Paul Campbell said: “This report presents a significant progress towards our commitment and work towards creating a more open, equality-driven, representative, relevant university and inspiring curriculum. It marks the beginning of a revolutionary process to create a Higher Education system that is fully fit and inclusive for the 21st century.”

Focusing on the disciplines of Biology, Physics, Law and Sociology at the University of Leicester, the report Tackling Racial Inequalities in Assessment in Higher Education: A Multi-Disciplinary Case Study has for the first time assessed the relationships between race, ethnicity and assessment preference and the impact on students’ performance and outcomes.

Some of the key recommendations included creating clearer assessment frameworks and criteria, better pre and post assessment support, using clearer language in essay questions and providing clearer feedback in marked work.  

The study is part of a series of projects aimed to address the awarding gap for ethnic minority students. This includes a £46,000 award by the Centre for Transforming Access and Students Outcomes in Higher Education (TASO) to evaluate the launch of the Decolonising the Curriculum Toolkit in the School of Media, Communications and Sociology.

The study cites that in disclosed assessments, South Asian students of Islamic faith often felt that they were subject to ethnic and religious-based anti-education stereotypes and biases, which impacted negatively on their grade outcomes. Likewise, some black students were concerned that “in presentations, grade awards were influenced by their capacity to mask their blackness”.

The University of Leicester is one of the most diverse universities in the UK, with 52% of its students coming from a black, Asian and minority ethnic background. The University currently has an awarding gap of 9% compared with the national 13%.