By Dr Ilia Protopapa, Lecturer in Marketing and Inclusive Education Partner at King’s Business School. Tyler John, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Project Officer at King’s College London, and Antonis Kazouris, Employee Insights Consultant.
All students should be given the opportunity to access, succeed and progress in HE. A key part of this relates to Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) actions, removing barriers to learning which should be central priorities for any educational institution. This is linked to the BAME attainment gap which highlights that there is a disparity in the number of students from ethnic minority backgrounds receiving higher classification degrees. Evidence suggests[i] that experience and engagement at university significantly affects the performance of students’ from underrepresented ethnicity backgrounds. As an institution King’s aspires to have open doors to anyone capable to reflect the diversity of London. This is why King’s Business School is committed to developing and promoting a diverse and inclusive environment for all our students, aligned with the King’s Strategic Vision 2029[ii].
Listening to our students’ voices
Involving our students in the design of diversity and inclusion initiatives is an essential part of our strategy. This is why we work closely with our Inclusive Education Students Partners. Recently, we asked questions as part of the King’s College Institutional “Checking-in” Survey conducted by the WhatWorks department to assess students’ perceptions of diversity, inclusion and respect that were introduced. The King’s Institutional Survey aimed to assess students’ experiences during the first academic term of 2020/21. The survey had multiple waves throughout the year to get a more detailed understanding as well as be able to compare student responses. The first questions on diversity, inclusion and respect were launched in December 2020 and the first set of data was collected and analysed.
What did our students say?
The survey was launched across all King’s College London’s faculties. Students responded to a series of questions about diversity using a 1-5 scale (“strongly disagree” – “strongly agree”). 70 King’s Business School (KBS) students from ethnic-minority backgrounds took part in the survey (26 undergraduate and 44 postgraduate students). Overall, the majority of undergraduate and postgraduate KBS respondents from ethnic-minority backgrounds reported that they feel accepted, valued and respected. KBS is a relatively small faculty within the institution, and although numbers are too small to make generalisations we take this as a positive indicator, especially as they reflect responses from the all-faculty cohort (Figure One). Most business students stated that people’s differences are recognised and respected and that they feel supported to bring the best of themselves to their studies. 15 out of 18 ethnic-minority undergraduate students in first year reported that that they can be themselves without worrying about how they will be accepted. Some ethnic minority undergraduate students in second year strongly feel that they are valued, and that people’s differences are respected and recognised in the institution. Third year ethnic-minority undergraduate students generally feel well supported to bring the best of themselves in their studies. Lastly, responses from our ethnic minority postgraduate students (KBS) indicated that they mostly feel respected (39 out of 44 students) and valued (35 out of 44 students).
Figure 1. Average responses for all respondents, KBS respondents and KBS (BME) respondents to the diversity questions from the Institutional Survey
Putting Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the heart of the Business School
Events of the last year, including a global pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement, have reminded us of the importance of equality, diversity and inclusion. Every day, we continue to see the disastrous consequences of the socioeconomic disparities that exist across the world; disparities that widen and grow the more they are ignored. In aiming to be a world-leading business school, we must provide our students with a nourishing and accepting learning environment – to do this, equality, diversity, and inclusion must be at the heart of everything we do. King’s should be a place where everyone can bring their full selves to their work or their studies, and should be encouraged to and feel confident doing so[iii] [iv]. Research suggests[v] that when students feel their identities are accepted and that there are appropriate support mechanisms in place for them, they exhibit ‘greater intellectual and cultural engagement’, ‘better understanding of their field’, and a better ‘overall university experience’.
Over the next year, King’s Business School will be working to establish committed equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) governance within its structure. Including an EDI committee and an action plan, to help us embed EDI thinking and behaviours into our everyday practice.
Here are a few suggestions of what can we do to ensure that King’s is a place where everyone can thrive:
- Develop your understanding of EDI issues. If you’re a member of staff, take part in our Diversity Matters training[vi], to learn more about unpacking your unconscious biases. Take a look at King’s Cultural Competency resources[vii], to kickstart your thinking about how to better engage with new and different perspectives.
- Engage with EDI activity. Join one of our staff networks[viii] and help shape the King’s community.
- Attend a Conversations About Race[ix] session, to hear more about experiences of race across King’s.
- Join a student forum or staff EDI committee to make your voice heard and be part of the action.
- Learn! We are all responsible for our own learning, so it’s important to seek out new information where you can. Read articles, blogs and journals about new ideas or things you don’t understand. You can find guidance and resources relating to EDI[x] on our website, and read (or even contribute to!) our Diversity Digest blog here[xi].
For more information on how you can embed EDI within your teaching, work or practices, take a look at the AdvanceHE EDI Hub[xii]. You can also take a look at the EDI homepage[xiii] on the King’s website to read more about our work and how you can get involved.
Cultural competency for graduates and future leaders.
Mr. Antonis Kazouris is a London-based diversity and inclusion consultant with an extensive experience in employee engagement and experience in leading organisations. He was invited to offer his perceptions on King’s Business School D&I initiatives towards closing the attainment gap.
Antonis suggests that: ‘Your today’s students are the tomorrow’s employees. Listening to students’ and employees’ voices to strategically design initiatives towards a more inclusive society has become a necessity rather than a “good-to-have” option, and a moral responsibility for every organisation. Offering a diverse and inclusive environment during volatile times requires good listening skills and opportunities for individuals to make their voices heard. King’s strategic research-led approach on inclusive education can help graduates to build the social skills and align them with values that successful companies are looking for, more and more’.
Ilia Protopapa’s short bio:
Dr. Ilia Protopapa is a Lecturer in Marketing and an Inclusive Education Partner (IEP) at King’s Business School. Ilia is working towards diversity and inclusion actions with the aim to close the attainment gap at King’s Business School. She is passionate about designing and promoting inclusive, evidence-driven pedagogic approaches in higher education.
Tyler John’s short bio:
Tyler John is an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Project Officer within the EDI Function at King’s College London. He works part-time with both The Dickson Poon School of Law and Kings Business School on shaping and facilitating their EDI initiatives.
Antonis Kazouris’ short bio:
Antonis Kazouris is a D&I and employee insights consultant with years of experience in designing employee engagement and experience initiatives. Antonis has led projects on D&I and engagement for Willis Towers Watson, Coca-Cola HBC and Ipsos MORI.
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[i] Higher Education Funding Council for England HEFCE (2015) Causes of differences in student outcomes. [online] Available at: https://dera.ioe.ac.uk/23653/1/HEFCE2015_diffout.pdf
[ii] King’s College London (2020) King’s Strategic Vision 2029. [online]. Available at: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/about/assets/pdf/Kings-strategic-vision-2029.pdf
[iv] King’s College London (2019) EQUALITY, DIVERSITY & INCLUSION Strategy. [online]. Available at: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/hr/diversity/di-at-kings/edi-strategy-final-1.pdf
[v] The University of Arizona Student Benefits of Diversity & Inclusion. [online]. Available at: https://diversity.arizona.edu/student-benefits-diversity-inclusion
[vi] Skills force [online]. Available at: https://training.kcl.ac.uk/kcl/#em/eventAdmin,;eventsearch,type=BY_BEST_MATCH,s=diversity%20matters,date=FUTURE,;eventadmin,id=9a507650-93d3-42bb-8f58-1f81773ed8ad,tab=REGISTERS
[viii] King’s College London. Networks. [online]. Available at: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/hr/diversity/get-involved/networks/networks
[ix] King’s College London. Conversations about race. [online]. Available at: https://internal.kcl.ac.uk/account/Login?ReturnURL=https%3a%2f%2finternal.kcl.ac.uk%2fstudent%2fstudent-success%2fClosing-Attainment-Gaps-at-Kings%2fConversations-About-Race.aspx
[x] King’s College London. Guidance and resources. [online]. Available at: https://www.kcl.ac.uk/hr/diversity/guidance-and-resources/index
[xii] AdvanceHE. Creating an inclusive environment. [online]. Available at: https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/guidance/equality-diversity-and-inclusion/creating-inclusive-environment