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Bee the VP for Education, recently spoke out about the poster that has gone up in the Students’ Union offices. It attracted attention due to the fact that it publicises the 12% attainment gap at Lancaster University. Bee said that this issue ‘goes unnoticed’ and questioned ‘why are those students not achieving the same as their white peers’? Bee challenged the university on recruitment grounds, describing how ‘in the south they have really really diverse student bodies’- Bee was frank about the fact that ‘we really don’t here at Lancaster’. Bee recommended looking at the ‘widening access participation plan’ to see Lancaster’s specific goals and aims in the coming years.
Bee warned that the statistics show that ‘in over a decade we barely made progress’ towards our goals. On a more positive note, she does feel that ‘the attitude around this has changed’. The one issue that Bee hopes will decrease the attainment gap is having ‘anonymous marking’. Anonymous marking has the advantage that unconscious bias is completely eliminated which is one of the many ways in which BAME students can be disadvantaged. Bee’s predecessor Ian Meeks was the person who first started calls for anonymous marking to be used and Bee is hoping to continue his work and get it over the line. Bee hoped that by publicising the attainment gap it will give the issue ‘that push that we need to get anonymous marking’.
Bee is hoping to bring back the ‘Equality, Diversity and Inclusion’ reps- ‘I’m hoping we can relaunch it this year’. She thinks that ‘the more diverse voices we have the better for change’. Putting the poster up in the SU offices means that ‘all of the university staff have to walk past’ those statistics, it’s a challenge to ‘do something about it’. When the attainment gap has been decreased the poster can be taken down or amended to a lower percentage. Bee has been getting increasingly frustrated in meetings that she has been having as she can’t understand why they have ‘put on hold diversifying the curriculum’. She is tired of all the promises and statements that the university puts out and wants to see ‘actual change’.
At Lancaster the target is to reduce the attainment gap ‘to 6% by 2024/25’ but Bee thinks that even if the university does get it down to 6%, which is an ambitious target, it will be far harder to eliminate the unconscious bias that remains. Bee recognises that it is frustrating ‘students starting the conversation now will have left’ before the changes will be in place- but ‘it is the right thing to do’.
Bee rounded off the interview by telling us that ‘it will be a long time before we see the change that is needed’ but that the correct first step is to embrace ‘anonymous marking’. Another big step will be to diversify the recruitment of the university- ‘if we have a more diverse staff and more diverse students we’ll be better as a university’. To help make these changes happen consider becoming an academic rep or when the renewed EDI roles become available, sign up! Reducing the attainment gap is the right thing to do and as a student body we can create the pressure for it to happen.