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Closing the Gap
The mythical seat at ‘the table’

In 2017, in response to the then 25.5% BAME Attainment Gap that existed at the University of Huddersfield, the Education Officer, for the academic year 2017/18, negotiated with the University to get BAME students direct access to a number of ‘seats of power’ within the University structure.

Seats at the boardroom, tables of power and decision making became open to BAME students in a way that had never been seen before.

At the time Huddersfield students were the first in the country to do this. Since this time a number of other institutions have followed the powerful path first walked by Huddersfield students.

School Boards and School Teaching and Learning Committees are meetings made up of senior academics and managers within each of the teaching schools (there are seven schools). Heads of departments, Associated Deans, Directors of Teaching and Learning and service managers all make up the people who attend. There are always a Students’ Union elected officer and someone from the Representation Team there. There are two open places for any students to go along and contribute to the conversation.

In 2017/18 an additional student place was allocated that would only ever be available to a BAME student to ensure that the BAME student experience was always brought to the table. This provided an opportunity for the authentic student BAME voice to be heard by the people in each school who make decisions about teaching, the curriculum, resources, the school environment and loads of other things that affect everyday student life here at Huddersfield.

Over the past two and half years the BAME Ambassadors have taken conversations to all of these decision-making people about things like:

  • Support for students observing Ramadan during assessment deadlines and exam dates.
  • The daily experiences of BAME students on and off campus.
  • The Broaden My Bookshelf Initiative to diversify reading.

To keep the BAME student experience on the agenda at these meetings it is super important that there are BAME Ambassadors who come forward to join these meetings and give feedback, on behalf of all BAME students, about their experiences on campus.

Without a BAME Ambassador at these meetings the schools cannot fully understand the steps that the academics and support managers can take to remove barriers, broaden experience and contribute to the journey for equality here at Huddersfield.

The Students’ Union offers training and support to those students who are attending. The BAME Ambassador joins the Students’ Union elected officer and the member of the Rep Team going to these meetings as a team of three.

The BAME Ambassadors have told us that it is easier to talk freely at these meetings if it is not the school that they study in, so no one needs to worry about having awkward conversations with their own lecturers.

If these seats remain empty then less progress can be made.

The BAME Attainment Gap at Huddersfield in 2019/20 was 15%, so things are getting better – but until there is no gap then this conversation cannot be called finished.

If you would like to take the power into your own hands and join these amazing team of people who are making direct, positive and measurable change within the University of Huddersfield the please email su.campaigns@hud.ac.uk and we would love to meet you.

If you are looking for professional skills experience that will look great on your CV then this is an opportunity to get it.

If you are looking around for someone to step forward to improve your personal experience but finding no one there – maybe it is you that all BAME students are waiting for.

You will not be on your own. You will contribute on your own terms. The Students’ Union will have your back. Together we can make this world a better place.