Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Equality, diversity & internationalisation

This week the Equality Challenge Unit launched their report Attracting international students: equitable services and support, campus cohesion and community engagement providing the findings of a study of five Scottish universities in relation to equality and diversity issues and internationalisation.  It's a welcome recognition that these two agendas, so often led by separate parts of an institution, in practice are deeply intertwined, and that looking at one through the lens of the other provides useful insights.  

For example, do we provide equitable services for home and international students, and how best to do so?  How well do institutions deliver on the statutory public duty to promote good relations on campus, and with (and within) the local community?  Do institutions have good links with community organisations, and how are these used to expand the support services that are provided to sections of the international student community?

The report celebrates the good work already being done, and provides opportunities to explore good practice, and reflect on existing provision.  It also exhorts institutions to bridge the academic/administrative divide and help raise awareness among academics of the ways in which support services can help their students succeed, stressing the vital role of tutors and lecturers in referring and signposting students towards the services they need.

This report is worth putting in the context of a recent piece of research by German organisation SVR which (according to the PIE News) found that in a study of five European countries, the impact of discrimination on students' decision to stay or leave, the UK came out best, with Germany and France worst at nearly 40%.  Yet even in the UK, over a quarter of international students complained of discrimination.  As this and the ECU report show, there is more work to do.

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