The University of Derby has a clear institution-wide commitment to access and participation (opening doors for everyone) articulated through the University’s Strategic Framework 2018-30 and strong leadership from the Vice-Chancellor, senior leaders, and the Governing Council. This commitment is underpinned by targets (eliminating the ethnicity awarding gap is an institutional success measure) that are shaped by evidence and aligned with other strategic priorities. For example, the University’s actions aligned to equality, diversity and inclusion, such as achieving the Advance HE Race Equality Charter, link to the Curriculum Design and Learning, Teaching & Assessment Frameworks as well as complementing business and community engagement through the Civic University Agreement.
The APP aligns with the University’s core pedagogic frameworks that commit to inclusive curricula and practice so that students from all backgrounds are engaged and supported to succeed. One of the core principles of the Curriculum Design Framework, co-designed with students, is to ensure that the design, content, delivery and assessment of taught programmes is inclusive of, and celebrates, the diversity of the student body.
The University’s Learning, Teaching & Assessment Framework highlights the importance of creating a sense of belonging and sense of purpose amongst students as well as building their self-efficacy and resilience. This includes building strong networks of support to facilitate students’ engagement with their curricula as well as extra-curricular activities, and creating meaningful connections that provide access to the necessary advice, guidance and support at the right times in their individual learner journeys. For example, the University was lead partner on the development of the Advanced HE Mental Health Toolkit (Hughes and Spanner, 2019) which enables academics to embed appropriate strategies to support healthier student wellbeing and address the needs of disabled students.
Opportunities for colleagues to be actively involved and engaged in access and participation work are provided in several ways with an emphasis upon embedding inclusion within core processes. For example:
- Inclusion is recognised as everyone’s responsibility and is included in mandatory training for staff. This training is complemented through access to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Networks for colleagues and students. These include the LGBTQ+ Allies, Race Equality, Gender Equality, Disability, and Wellbeing, and the Faith and Beliefs Staff Networks
- A role model and allies’ scheme is also run to encourage greater visibility and to normalise conversations around inclusion, and proactively support and champion colleagues with protected characteristics
- The PG Certificate in Academic Practice and the Apprenticeship in Academic Practice programmes introduce access, participation and inclusion related themes and raise awareness of the diversity of the student body and their needs. Early career researchers receive sessions on awarding gaps during their induction
- In partnership with the Union of Students, our EDI Representation System’ provides a clear route through which students can participate in the co-creation and evaluation of institutional policy and practice
A full student lifecycle approach has been adopted in this plan, where support begins pre-entry and extends post-graduation. For example, this includes supporting potential learners from primary age upwards including pre-entry outreach (Progress to Success Framework), working with those looking to upskill or reskill, facilitating transitions between stages of learning and access to postgraduate study and/or employment.
Opportunities exist, and will be expanded through this plan, for a diverse range of students to act as role models and inspire others with similar backgrounds to achieve and progress in education. For example:
- Students create taster and masterclass sessions which they deliver in local schools
- Students support research and evaluation through the Undergraduate Research Scholarship Scheme
- Students from programmes with high, sustained, awarding gaps between white and black students help us to explore sense of belonging and brought their lived experience to data analysis and shaping the conclusions
- The Union of Students EDI Representation Policy helps ensure that the voices of all students can be heard
Student members sit on all academic committees at the University, including the Access and Participation Steering Group. The Learning & Teaching Committee and the Governing Council’s Student Affairs Committee are co-chaired with the Union of Students. This student-led approach resulted in the adoption of a standing item at the Learning & Teaching Committee – the Union of Students’ ‘Real Time Issues’ to address student experience issues which have arisen in short order in the run up to the Committee meeting. For example, in response to a request from the Union of Student’s Ethnic Minorities Officer for ‘listening spaces for students’, a student-led forum was created in the College of Health, Psychology & Social Care for students to raise issues. This model of good practice has been extended to other Colleges.
In partnership with the Union of Students, enhancements have been made to the student voice at programme level. Student representatives are elected for each cohort of students across all undergraduate and apprenticeship programmes, including online and for students studying at the University’s academic partners. The Union of Students and programme teams work together to ensure that student representation is diverse and reflects the make-up of student body; 23% of undergraduate student representatives are students of colour. Specific questions on inclusion, identity and belonging are included in both module and programme level evaluations feeding into the University’s continual monitoring processes.
Governance of the APP is embedded across all levels of the institution. Module and programme level actions and outcome monitoring is managed within core quality assurance mechanisms with upward monitoring through the academic governance committees and processes. College Access & Participation Groups have responsibility for ensuring that actions are completed and outcomes monitored and evaluated effectively. The Chairs of these groups sit alongside representatives from professional service areas and the Union of Students on the University Access and Participation Steering Group (APSG)
This APSG, chaired by a member of the University’s Executive team, serves to ensure that progress is made to deliver the required impact of the APP with respect to the stated targets as well as overseeing the effective evaluation of plan. The APSG reports into the University Executive Board and Academic Board and Governing Council. An Academic Equality and Inclusion Group serves as a community of practice to both help develop and disseminate good practice across the institution and to inform policy and process development where necessary.
A root and branch review of the University’s financial support offer for students is to be undertaken to ensure that this reflects the needs of the identified target groups. This review has been initiated, however, given the short timescale for creating a Wave 1 APP, it has not been possible to complete this work prior to submission to the OfS. The existing financial support arrangements and commitments will continue as previously indicated for 2023-24 entrants and until a set of revised proposals have been finalised and approved. Approval will be sought through requesting a variation to this plan, which will be assessed by the OfS.