“We make a life by what we give” – Winston Churchill


This week’s blog continues the focus on our Challenge for Change project. You can check out our other blogs on the subject here.

One of the key partners in the work has been the School of Media. They have not only improved the diversity of guest speakers, included a focus on diversity in all their recent away days, but are also trialling a different approach to assessments.

“What Works” model of assessment

A number of module tutors in the School are trialling assessment “unpacking” following the “What Works” model employed at the University of Wolverhampton. The tutors are offering workshops with black and ethnic minority students to build a greater level of understanding of what is required for assessments. Findings from Wolverhampton indicated an enhanced effect for black and ethnic minority students, supporting a reduction in their attainment gap. We are hoping for a similar outcome. Find out more about their work here.

Reciprocal Mentoring

This work has generated a degree of interest from other universities. Not in relation to ethnicity, but rather gender equality. It is seen as an activity that has the potential to reduce a gender pay gap. I think this is true. At the inception of our project, we were exploring the introduction of reverse mentoring. However, I attended a breakfast meeting where Pinsent Masons, our law firm, shared the success of their reciprocal mentoring. They matched female associates with male partners to increase the representation of female partners by developing a better understanding of the roles and challenges of both. They set themselves an ambitious three-year target that they exceeded in two. I was inspired and decided this would be more appropriate for us. Find out more about their project here.

We therefore partnered six senior leaders with six black and ethnic minority students in a reciprocal mentoring partnership. We wanted to create a safe space where our students could share their lived experiences with a leader, developing their cultural awareness and understanding, to improve student experiences. In return, the leader would offer insight into career choices and employability, including sharing their professional networks. Our students self-selected via an “expression of interest” form. This helped with the matching process. Due to very small numbers registering, all of them were included. We selected our leaders.

The matching process was undertaken last November, and partners were encouraged to have an introductory meeting before Christmas. This was really important to get to know each other, and determine whether there was a rapport that would enable an open and trusting relationship. The matching process had been successful, and all six partnerships continued.

Whilst we’re only half way through the pilot, initial feedback has been quite positive. The negative aspects have largely related to the paperwork that was designed to provide a supportive framework! Other challenges included arranging dates and initially the students looked to the senior leaders to take the lead. I guess that was hardly surprising. Whilst the reciprocal nature might not always have been realised as we had anticipated, the leaders have stated that that they have been able to “talk openly and share our experiences” and have had some “really good discussions about ethnicity and experiences both at university and outside”.

Our student partners have said “It gave me a platform to voice my thoughts and ideas where I know it would be listened to and be useful to the university”, and “Our partnership worked well because we were both keen to solve the problem regardless whether we were the mentor or mentee”.

The pilot will conclude in June. At this point we will undertake a full evaluation to inform whether we embed the opportunity in the package of employability support provided by the university.

You can find out whether the pilot was successful by reading our blog and following us on Twitter. Stay up to date with our pilot by following us on WordPress and twitter: @UoGEquality

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