Authentic Student Partnership: Space for Diversity and Inclusion

Linking with the themes of diversity and student perspectives, this conference paper provides insights into an on-going Students’ as Partners (SAP) project within Education Studies at Newman University. From the inception of the project in 2013-14 and responding to the question “Where do ideas come from?”-three undergraduates have taken the lead on research work aimed at supporting inclusive learning within Education Studies. This student-generated work is having significant impact on programme delivery and has raised a number of dilemmas that will be opened up for discussion.
Starting with an opening contextualisation of student engagement within the curriculum at Newman University, this paper will then present the initial design, outcomes and recommendations of the SAP project. Key recommendations include: diversifying the curriculum beyond Eurocentric perspectives; expanding the use of literature from ethnic minorities and a greater focus on the role of identity within the first year of the programme. Whilst the original project sat outside of the curriculum its recommendations relate directly to it, allowing for a consideration of tensions around performativity and authenticity (MacKenzie et al, 2007) within Higher Education.
Our engagement with student partnership is significant, as it cannot be separated from local and national ideological discourse (Ball, 2013). This highlights questions surrounding ‘British Values’ within the curriculum, and the differences between ‘re-inscribing hegemonic power relations’ (Taylor & Robinson, 2009) and authentic critical student dialogue (Freire, 1985). Finally, what spaces Higher Education may have to make interventions that value diversity and promote inclusivity are considered.