This blog is part of the series featuring ideas contained in the new HEPI-Brightside report, Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and Participation. It showcases the idea from Shakira Sweet, President of the National Union of Students (NUS).
Even with the massive increase in student numbers the most selective institutions have not diversified sufficiently on issues of race, gender or socio-economic background. Ensuring that students from all backgrounds have an equal chance to attend the same universities and can progress into equally successful careers must be a key goal.
Interventions must benefit students equitably, and not just enrich students with existing advantages. For example, interventions around academic engagement focused at improving retention often predominantly enrich the students with existing significant support.
A failure to focus interventions on those who need it most – including through a much-needed intersectional approach – has seen long-standing inequities failing to be addressed. For example, the Black Attainment Gap and inequities in disability support continue regardless of a decade of focussed work.
Historically, access has focused on socio-economic background, but now needs to focus on a more intersectional understanding of the student experience. Liberation of education from oppressive structures – for example class, race or disability – is a key mechanism for making a truly transformational education. If the Office for Students is to take a metrics- based approach to teaching quality, it should use a more appropriate calculation such as progress towards closing the Black Attainment Gap.