BAME inclusion is crucial to improve universities

Nishan Canagarajah says BAME inclusion vital to improve universities.
Nishan Canagarajah says BAME inclusion vital to improve universities.

OUTCOMES of students belonging to black and ethnic minorities can be improved if they feel they are part of their university community, said the University of Leicester’s new vice-chancellor.

In an interview with the PA news agency, professor Nishan Canagarajah said that a student’s sense of belonging was paramount to their overall achievement.

“In my view there is a strong correlation between the students feeling a sense of belonging and included in the community and their achievements,” he said, adding that there was a need to make sure  “our university communities are diverse and inclusive for students from all kinds of backgrounds”.

“In this case we are talking about BAME,” Canagarajah said, “but I would also add it relates to social backgrounds as well, so for white students coming from widening participation they also need to feel they belong to that institution.”

According to Canagarajah, an engineer originally from Sri Lanka, a “fundamental issue” in higher education is under-representation of BAME within the workforce.

“This is a systemic issue that cannot be fixed overnight, but we need to act now, if that is one of the fundamental problems we need to fix for students from diverse backgrounds to feel they belong to that institution,” he told PA.

He also stressed the need for students to feel they are not alone in their lectures and group work.

“For example, the student body themselves need to understand there are diverse students.

“In STEM subjects typically you will have laboratory activity where you are working in a smaller group, similarly in humanities you will work in seminar groups. If you feel you are the only one, kind of isolated, it’s very hard for you to contribute and realise your full potential.”