Our experience in addressing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion over the past 10 years provides the foundation to deliver an inclusive and equal student experience by fully embedding EDI into all stages of the student journey through our CDT: recruitment, cohort building, taught programme, PhD co-design, PhD research, partnership, thesis, and alumni.
We will continue to recruit a diverse cohort and review recruitment strategies to ensure we provide an equal opportunity for all to join our CDT. We work in an area – digital technologies – that has a traditional bias towards recruitment of males1. We have striven to overcome this by ensuring mixed gender and disciplinary representation at interview panels (46% of our Leadership Team and 37% of our initial core supervisor network are female) and targeting a wide range of contributing disciplines. This has enabled us to recruit 40% female students to date. We have also had some success in attracting BME students, with 29% of our students coming from a BME background. We collaborate with B3 Media to deliver Talentlab (www.b3media.net/talentlab/) to train young BME artists which has led to recruitment. The diversity of our cohort should help those from a range of cultural backgrounds to feel welcomed and we will ensure the visibility of role models during recruitment. We will refine our strategy to address neurodiversity and review the language used in advertisements, taking advantage of expertise in linguistic profiling at UoN which has revealed the potential negative impact on wording that relates to ‘ambition’ and ‘excellence’, as well as the value of using personal pronouns (‘you’ and ‘your’) in attracting diverse applicants.
We will strive to ensure that the experience of being a student within the CDT will be equally open to all, regardless of sexual orientation, age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex. In addition to embedding tools such as unconscious bias training and equality impact assessment into students training, we will form a specialist EDI challenge group from our student body, drawing on our experience of dealing with our current CDT students whose characteristics include physical mobility disabilities, dyslexia, pregnancy and gender reassignment. 16% of our students have declared a disability. Our CDT already funds PhDs exploring the digital healthcare experience of trans people and of people experiencing various mental health difficulties, providing us with a pool of relevant and deeply researched expertise. We are proud of the diversity of our cohort in terms of age, religion and sexual orientation, but have not formally analysed any potential impact that students with protected characteristics may have experienced, so will apply for funds from the UoN (Inclusion Matters) to conduct a study on what has worked and what could be improved.
Mechanisms for requesting and implementing adjustments will ensure that all students are able to engage and realize their ambitions. This will involve a clear communications plan to Supervisors and Students and direct collaboration with UoN student services and the Graduate School. Examples of adjustments we already make are: ensuring that those with physical mobility difficulties are not required to travel rapidly between locations; that disabled parking spaces are available near meeting locations; that students with learning disabilities meet the UoN welfare team and student advisors who advise supervisors and CDT leaders on adjustments (e.g. form of material, extended deadlines, ability to record supervisions); that those with care responsibilities or limited mobility undertake internships close to home or work remotely or part-time. We will tailor the programme to EDI considerations, including provision for part-time students, building on the modular and event-based nature of our training. Week-long challenge modules and assessment exercises can accommodate short, busts of engagement and will be scheduled to avoid school holidays and supported with online access. We will undertake equality impact assessments of all of our main activities, sharing the results with supervisors to help sensitize them to issues involved.
Within the CDT we will ensure that part of our annual exam board has specific time dedicated to review of EDI data and will also ensure that each CDT management meeting has EDI as a standing agenda item. We will ensure that supervisors engage with this matter through annual training for issues including: unconscious bias; specialist mental health first aid (delivered by our project partners MindTech), support for Neurodiversity. We will ask supervisors to review our processes and data to identify possible trigger points which might lead to unconscious bias in our recruitment, assessment and support of students.
We are already fully engaged with the EDI agenda of both the UoN and the wider academic communities. The UoN commitment to EDI for staff and students is reflected in the appointment of our Co-Director Professor Sarah Sharples as Nottingham’s PVC with a portfolio focus on EDI. This will ensure that our work is aligned with, and indeed drives, UoN best practice. Professor Sharples has also acted as an advisor to the team that is delivering the recently funded ‘Inclusion Matters’ bid, and has engaged with the engineering-led novel approach to recruitment through Diversity by Design.