The University of Birmingham aims to take steps to ensure that its curriculum is inclusive towards those with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer (LGBTQ) identities. The new project is innovative within the higher education sector and may draw on current effective practice across the university to develop a guide for colleagues seeking to embed LGBTQ challenges in all of the institution’s academic disciplines.
Co-Project Leader Dr. Nicola Gale, Lecturer in the Sociology of Health Care at the Health Services Management Centre, said: “For LGBTQ students, coming to university can be a really positive experience socially; with the opportunity to meet new people and, here at Birmingham, join the excellent student LGBTQ Association. However, we would like to ensure that this experience translates into the actual content of their courses.”
The project coordinators aim to focus the initiatives to tackle inclusivity; they were previously centred on the social and pastoral experiences of LGBTQ students at the university, rather than on the content and delivery of teaching. However, students have reported that interactions in lectures, seminars and laboratories are crucial to their experience. Uplifting experiences signposted include productive staff role models and the use of case studies that acknowledge LGBTQ identities. The project at the University of Birmingham aims to explore the experiences of staff and students, through a survey and local-level workshops over two years. These findings aim to be synthesized, with a review of course literature, and compared with experiences across the education sector internationally.
People across the university and the newly formed Inclusive Curriculum Working Group also aim to promote best practice recommendations that are tailored to different academic disciplines. These initiatives will support the work the university already undertakes concerning equality and diversity, with the institution fully committed as a Stonewall Diversity Champion. Scoring nine out of ten in the Stonewall University Guide 2015, the University of Birmingham is regarded as having fantastic support and resources for LGBTQ students; as well as a thriving city-centre scene. Furthermore, Attitude and Diva magazines independently voted the University of Birmingham as one of the most productive universities in the country to be an LGBTQ student. First year undergraduates are also offered an LGBT housing option when applying for accommodation.
Co-Project Leader Dr Nicki Ward, Lecturer in Social Work at the School of Social Policy, has added: “Our project seeks to identify good practice across all the academic disciplines at Birmingham and to offer practical support to lecturers on making their classroom a more LGBTQ-inclusive place.”
Along with the production of best practice resources and workshops, those involved in the project hope to present their research at the university’s prestigious Teaching and Learning Conference in 2015; as well as publishing the results in a peer-reviewed journal. Findings from the study aim to also be shared nationally and internationally amongst colleagues at other research-intensive universities. Interestingly, The University of Birmingham was named The Times and The Sunday Times University of the Year 2013/14. Furthermore, the University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work has brought people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers, and more than 4,000 international students from nearly 150 countries.
There has been a greater consideration and more productive attitude towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students in the last six years, according to a report released this week. An increased presence of Gay-Straight Alliances in schools and more inclusive curricular resources are part of the reason for this change, according to research by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network; an organisation focused on ensuring safe and affirming schools. An inclusive curriculum and resources would help LGBTQ students succeed academically, the study reported.
How might inclusivity be increased across educational and employment sectors?