On the 22nd October the University of Derby hosted the Symposium 'Changing the Narrative: 'Attainment Gaps' in Higher Education. The details of the workshops ran during the event are available below for review.

CN01 - Why race…? and other stories with Lindy-Ann Blaize and Sehrish Tahir, Sheffield Hallam University

We start with the premise that the degree awarding gap is not a construct of student deficit but of racism in its many forms: covert, institutional, unquestioned. The consequence of taking this approach is that we are often faced with the recurrent question: Why RACE?

Flynn (2015) suggests that one of the main challenges in working around ameliorating gaps is the challenge of moving from an individual recognition to a more systemic understanding of racism. Consequently, our discussion about 'why race' adopts a historical lens to move beyond the student [deficit] model to briefly explore how we can as individuals begin to develop a potentially different perspective to work in this arena.

CN02 - What is the role of the Black academic in higher education? with Cleveland Thompson, University of Derby

Is it the role of the black academic to influence the curriculum content in higher education, and to encourage inclusive attitudes in students and academics? The poor experiences of black academics and the underachievement of black students in higher education has been the source of much debate.

Arbouin (2018, p.68) states, that not much importance is being paid to black culture, authors, art, history or scientists in British universities and their exclusion perpetuates the continual reinforcement of a racist, Eurocentric epistemology. This lack of black cultural content is an omission that renders black people and their culture invisible, and by implication, less worthy of study.

This workshop aims to provide a safe space for all academics and students who truly believe in the benefits for all in the decolonization of the curriculum in higher education- to have a voice and an honest debate about how we can co-create an all-inclusive higher education curriculum through practical solutions.

CN03 - Reflections on driving positive action: allyship and institutional reception by Dr Zainab Khan Associate Pro Vice Chancellor (Attainment, Equity & Inclusion), London Metropolitan University

This time is reserved for students to work together to make connections and discuss the issues raised in the morning keynote and panel discussion.

CN04 - Our Definitions. Our Education. by Melanie Welaratne, Vice President (Education) Union of Students

This workshop will be a collective and open space! Writing our own as well as discussing key definitions of words relating to attainment and decolonising our education. Highlighting the importance of having your own opinion! 

CN05 - Reflections on the morning- time to think about where these conversations might take us by Fiona Shelton

CN06 - The Power of Art in Instigating Change: a Student Manifesto by Eva Brudenell, Artist

The focus of this session will be to investigate the relationship between art and civil rights protest and contemporaneous movements such as Black Lives Matter and their continuing fight for Freedom, Liberation and Justice.

Participants will be introduced to a range of visual examples of manifestos and ones which have been created by artists and designers such as Cleveland Bellow, Carolyn Lawrence, Kay Brown, Emory Douglas, Percy Wyndham-Lewis, Bob and Roberta Smith and Anthony Burrill. The selected images are visually powerful examples of how design for change can bring about awareness and promote change.

The presentation will highlight how artists have created visual manifestos or slogans to speak to the masses. Students will see examples of how the visual arts have the power to effect change and which highlight inequalities within societies. Using artistic methodologies, participants will be invited to create their own manifestos using an abundance of materials commonly used to create placards, posters and pamphlets such as stencils, found imagery, typography and markers.

A creative demonstration will allow students to create an A3 concertina folded pamphlet that will contain each person’s manifesto. This will give participants the option of creating a poster on the reverse side with what they believe to be the most powerful statement in their manifesto. Two main questions will be asked, firstly, what should universities be doing in terms of equity? and what do participants expect to change to fight inequality?

Students will be asked to feedback to the rest of the conference at the end of the event.

CN07 - Disorienting the (neo) liberal fantasy of whiteness by Dr Shona Hunter, Reader Carnegie School of Education, Leeds Beckett University, Director of Research Degree Programmes Deputy Director for the Centre for Race Education and Decoloniality

The idea of ‘awarding gaps’ speaks to the idea of its friend and ally ‘institutional whiteness’ in that it reframes our understanding of institutional inactions and failures to address racism and inequality as a form of positive action for whiteness which creates unequal outcomes for racialised people and groups who are learning and working in our higher educational spaces. This idea of inaction as a positive action for whiteness speaks to the apparent invisibility of whiteness in our higher educational spaces in the sense that it highlights processes and practices that are not usually associated with whiteness or race, as fundamental to the reproduction of racist inequality, like the 26% gap between the educational outcomes for black and white students. Neoliberalism as a(n incoherent, differentiated and disparate) set of material, cultural and affective practices in HE is fundamentally white. Its promulgation of certain ideas of success, excellence and achievement via vehicles like the REF and the TEF and other performance indicators frames the academy and all those who travel in it through the values of whiteness. This is the basic premise of my current work on White States of Mind.

In today’s workshop I will do some framing of this basic premise from where we can then unpack together what whiteness means in practice in our everyday academic contexts. That is in the production of policy, including but not confined to curriculum framing; in teaching spaces and our interactions within them as learners and workers; and in our own desires for academic success and recognition and via their entanglements. What does it mean to work and learn in such an academy? How is disruptive/disturbing/disorienting change produced? And how is it already happening in front of our noses?

CN08 - The Shadow of Empire: Conversations by Jay Patel Educator. Community Artist. Poet. Creative Trainer. 

Jay invites us to look discerningly at the Shadow of Empire, to listen deeply to untold stories to help us uncover hidden histories, & to reconsider the impact on those personally, systemically & institutionally, affected, by Anti-Black Racism, by Racialised Misogyny, Shadeism & Colourism, accounting for *intersecting* Social Constructs (particularly race’, ‘class’, ‘gender’) & Power Dynamics. 

Engaging Humans of all ages in Heart-Centred Education is a pathway she chooses, to empower *anti-racist individuals* within families, communities, organisations & institutions. Considering how Cultural Amnesia & Imperial Nostalgia influences Children, Young People, & All Those Yet To Come, she feels that the ‘Rights Of The Child’ have never been more vital, especially given the increasing denial of the globalised, nationalised & localised  ‘Divide & Conquer’ effects of Settler-Colonialism. 

Jay reflects on parallels between her own life, & between those also “Othered” by Empire. Seeing through the eyes of her young Daughter, her Mother, & both her Grand-Mothers in India, she seeks to more fully understand her self, her positionality, her ancestral heritage, her multi-layered ‘Internalised Oppression’, & the unfurling effects of Intergenerational Trauma & Lateral Violence. On four generations. Over four decades. 

Whilst she acknowledges that this inner work to ‘unpack’ our inherited ideologies, including more consciously-challenging the unquestioned myths of ‘racial innocence’, is painful, Jay feels the process of Decolonising Our Minds, of Heart-Sharing, of growing through the exchange of personal narratives, help to strengthen our empathetic connections, restoring Healthiness, & offering Hope. 

Jay is passionate about encouraging real (& not ‘intellectualised’) conversations that inspire us to co-create Safer, Braver Spaces, that can bring Recalibration, Openness & Solidarity, that Re-Connect us with Our Selves, with Each Other, & with the Natural World.

CN09 - Supporting students and staff- the role of ‘Allyship’ by Dr Muna Abdi, Education Consultant, Researcher, Public Speaker, Coach.

This workshop will open space to discuss some of the ways we offer support to students and staff at a micro and macro level. The session will introduce the concept of ‘allyship’ as a tool for support and challenge; outlining some of the principles of effective allyship. There is no such thing as a truly ‘safe’ space for all, so this workshop seeks to support and encourage a ‘brave’ space where we can share concerns about supporting in challenging circumstances and identify moments when allyship might have been useful. This is a space for sharing, reflection and change.