Inclusive Education Student & Staff Partners Programme to design for inclusion

Addressing the attainment gap for black and minority ethnic (BME) students through senior faculty attainment leads and BME students at King’s College London (KCL) joining forces to address inequalities in attainment through community organising and co-creation.

The report NUS/UUK published in 2019 recommends that BME staff should be consulted on attainment gap interventions without being overburdened by this responsibility, and that BME staff need time and recognition for supporting the university in this work.

The Student Outcomes Team at KCL launched the Inclusive Education Student & Staff Partners Programme in February 2020. This two-part programme embeds both BME student and BME staff insights into the core work done at KCL to close attainment gaps.

Despite entering the university with equal or similar entry requirements, statistically there are significant differential attainment outcomes for home fee-paying BME undergraduates.

BME students are less likely to achieve a 2:1 or a 1st class degree than their white peers. National Student Survey (NSS) data across the sector has highlighted a satisfaction gap between BME and white students.

The attainment gap between white and BME students has been closing, from a five-year high of 11.2pp in 2014-15 to 3.1pp in 2017-18, we are working to close it even further.

KCL feels it is imperative for its understanding of differences in outcomes and student experience to be informed by complementary qualitative datasets including NSS satisfaction data, Settling into King’s Questions and qualitative student data.1 Internal qualitative student data has highlighted differences in BME and white students’ sense of belonging.

The Inclusive Education Student & Staff Partners Programme embeds teaching and principles borrowed from community organising coupled with a change management approach to tackling attainment gaps.

The programme involves all nine academic faculties appointing two undergraduate BME students as partners on a paid part-time contract to provide support on issues related to attainment gaps. The student partners work in partnership with a dedicated member of staff from their faculty.

KCL has designed and implemented a bespoke training programme which aims to build students’ knowledge of attainment gaps, inclusion, education policy and research methodologies (e.g. focus groups, phone interviews or surveys).

Additionally, a key objective of the training programme is to support their professional development and equip them with the core skills necessary to carry out their key responsibilities.

Insight gathering activities on BME student experience are the cornerstone of the programme. This stage provides students with research experience and involves:

  • developing research questions based on the structural causes of attainment gaps
  • implementing a communications strategy to engage and recruit participants
  • carrying out and facilitating the focus group
  • summarising findings into an action plan.

After this peer-to-peer consultation phase, students present their ideas to senior management at a faculty level to encourage new actions to be put in place to address any of the emerging structural barriers.

The Student Outcomes team administers all aspects of the focus groups activity, including providing students with consent forms and templates for action plans.

In addition to this, students attend monthly supervisions run by the Student Outcomes Service. The team develops students’ leadership skills by providing opportunities for them to present to senior audiences, design and co-deliver group sessions and facilitate discussions across KCL.

KCL has facilitated spaces in the group supervisions for students to gain skills in openly sharing their challenges through open-ended questions and group brainstorming sessions. The student partners are also actively involved in other initiatives such as supporting the facilitation and delivery of race-based conversations.

Inclusive Education Staff Partners is a network of academic staff in every faculty. Partners work closely with the Faculty Attainment lead and Inclusive Education Student Partner to progress faculty action plans to close differences in attainment.

Activities led by staff partners include working with the faculty lead to provide strategic direction for the work, coaching and training colleagues in inclusive education practices and coordinating activity across the faculty.

Through partnering with students, faculties have reported increased awareness of the needs of BME students and have a sounding board for existing work in the areas of inclusion and other issues impacting differences in student attainment.

Since February 2020, the Inclusive Education Student Partners have carried out peer discussions and focus groups engaging over 180 BME students, which indicate differences in student experience according to race and ethnicity.

With this knowledge, students have provided their respective faculties with invaluable insights through the focus groups which the student partners deliver and use the feedback generated to inform action planning.

Each faculty has developed their action plan and implemented actions led by the student partners. Some examples of new activities include:

  • The launch of the People of Colour Network that hosted several bespoke events during Black History month
  • Co-creation of student and staff facing resources to improve personal tutoring relationships.

Student co-creation has benefited both faculties and students. By working in partnership with students, KCL believes faculties gain an increased awareness of the needs of the BME student population and a better understanding of what actions to put in place to tackle differences in student experience.

In turn, the student partners are equipped with knowledge of attainment gaps and their causes to inform their action plans and new projects and they feel empowered to act as changemakers. We evaluate the effectiveness of the programme through pre- and post-programme survey questions for both students and staff, one-to-ones and written testimonials.

Below is a testimonial from a former student partner and a faculty staff member on the benefits of this Inclusive Education Staff & Student Partners Programme.

‘As an Inclusive Education Student Partner for the Dickson Poon School of Law, I am hugely grateful for the opportunity I have been afforded to be part of an impactful change in the Inclusive Education space. During my time as an Inclusive Education Student Partner, it has become clear that the program transcends mere short-term marginal measures, instead it provides students from the BME community with the opportunity to be agents of change in ensuring that conversations about Inclusive Education move beyond conversation but effective action. A few notable examples of steps taken to create this environment that I am proud to be part of, has been the creation of a resource package aimed at developing the Personal Tutor relationship in collaboration with the Inclusive Education Student Partners from the NMS faculty. In addition to the creation of a student resource guide aimed at easing and facilitating the transition to University. The opportunity to be part of the Inclusive Education Student Partner programme and collaborate with fantastic members from the Faculty and Student Success Team, has been an honour which has shaped me both personally and professionally.’

‘It has been an utter honour to work with our Inclusive Education Student Partners, their professionalism and dedication to inclusive education has been inspiring considering the challenges of continuing their project during a pandemic. I am so proud of the work they have done to improve the personal tutoring system at KCL working with Inclusive Education Student Partner in Law to improve the current and future support staff can give to KCL students.

Inclusive Education Student Partners have also worked directly with services shaping project design and recruitment processes for new inclusive programmes in partnership with Services such as the KCL Careers and Employability team.

KCL will continue to work in partnership with students because we believe student co-creation is a mutually beneficial approach.’

1 Settling into King’s questions were developed to give KCL a picture of the wellbeing and belongingness of students and how this varies across different groups. It also enables the evaluation of initiatives aimed at influencing how students settle into the university.

Further details

See the other case studies from King College London:


Janira Mendes Borges, Student Outcomes Manager (Attainment)

Published 24 November 2021

Describe your experience of using this website

Improve experience feedback
* *

Thank you for your feedback