When actions meet words, we have trust.

I was excited to write my first blog as a new Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Intern within HR. I thought I’d write about the ‘Reciprocal Mentoring Programme’, an opportunity for those like myself, who are systemically disadvantaged due to ethnicity.

Right now, there is a lot of public interest in addressing educational inequalities through-out the UK Education sector. We know those who are most affected are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students. Whilst all are being affected, within those ethnic groups, black students are still being disadvantaged most and it’s something our university addressing. For many, this may not be new information, but for some, it is both new and quite rightly, concerning. The truth is, I’m a third-year student and until I joined the University’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic+ Network, just this summer, I had no idea; but when I found out, I knew I had to play my part in addressing this issue, whilst I am still a student.

If you are reading this, and it is your first time learning about the awarding gap, let me clarify: It is the disparity between Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Students achieving a 1st or 2:1, compared to their white counterparts. This is something all UK universities are being instructed to take seriously and undertake actions to close this gap. The 2017 data published by National Student Survey (NSS) showed the University of Gloucestershire compared unfavourably on a national scale. In response to these figures, the university piloted its Reciprocal Mentoring Programme; a positive action within its ‘Increasing Diversity Project’, to “address the under-representation of students with certain protected characteristics”. I thought this was a really great way to engage students and staff in order to break down barriers.

From my personal perspective as a participating student – there are too few students taking advantage and I think I’m starting to understand why.

With all that has happened in this crazy year of 2020, racism has quite rightly, been spotlighted – again! However, in my 35 years on the planet, I really feel the sense of urgency in how we address and start fixing, now. There is a common message being repeated publicly “if you’re not doing something, you’re part of the problem”, and I believe that. I want to action my part in change, and participating in the programme seemed like a less taxing way to do my bit.

When the opportunity was explained, I jumped at it for two reasons: I know the value of building a rapport through a professional partnership; I wanted to see for myself, just how committed the leadership and senior members are to change. Me being me, and often responding to my action bias “fix fix fix, fast fast fast”, I was keen to get going and sharing this opportunity with other students. However, through much conversation, procrastination and reflection, I kept coming back to the same conclusion; it’s a matter of trust and I just don’t think we are there.

I get that all too often we have experienced those who are in a position of change, pay lip service, offer token gestures or give us something to make their life better. I hear that. However, what I can say through being a part of this Programme, the leadership and senior partners also know this. They know that lack of trust is a big part of why students are reluctant to take part. They know there is a lot that needs to be done, and they know change and trust will not happen overnight.

So, if our leaders and senior members of staff are asking for trust and us students are just not there yet, I can’t help wondering what it will take for that to change? Like I say to my son, “If you don’t tell me what’s wrong, then I can’t help” – the University is asking us what’s wrong? And honestly, I think we need the help!

The Reciprocal Mentoring Programme is open to home Level 4, 5, 6 and Post Graduate Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students. Speaking as a student, I really hope more of you take advantage of working with the willing leaders and senior staff. Your words mean something.

For more information, please contact Lianna Bannister: lbannister@glos.ac.uk

To join the Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic+ Network, please email: BAMEPlusnetwork@glos.ac.uk

Follow us on Twitter @UoGEquality

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