At University Centre Leeds we are proud of our supportive environment, ensuring students receive personalised support and providing all students the opportunity to reach their full potential. As such, University Centre Leeds commits to the GTRSB into HE Pledge, and to improve access and participation in higher education (HE) of Gypsies, Travellers, Roma, Showmen, and Boaters (GTRSB).
Our Widening Participation (WP) Strategy 2021-2025 outlines our commitment to making a positive difference to individuals and communities. Our work involves effective partnership working and the pioneering of innovative approaches, which aim to remove barriers to access and participation in HE. Our strategy identifies several specific groups we strive to support and make real positive difference, including Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities. We commit to extending this to include Showmen and Boaters more visibly.
Those from GRT communities remain underrepresented in further education (FE) and HE in West Yorkshire, compared to national and local populations. At University Centre Leeds, 0.2% of our 2021-22 HE student population have identified as being from Gypsy or Irish Traveller communities; only 0.1% of the FE student population within our Luminate Education Group FE Colleges.
We commit to working towards creating the most appropriate and welcoming environment and conditions in which GTRSB students can stay resilient and thrive both personally and academically. University Centre Leeds understands the commitments to the pledge and aims to enhance or implement the following activities as part of our commitment:
- We currently collect numerical data relating to Gypsy and Irish Traveller students through our applications and enrolment processes. However, we have identified a need to advocate for more nuanced data collection to expand this to Roma, Showmen and Boaters within both our direct HE application form and our enrolment form, and we will continue to enhance our data monitoring, and trend evaluation, of GTRSB student numbers.
- We recognise that many GTRSB students do not wish to self-identify and so we will continue to develop processes to identify GTRSB students and monitor their progress, whilst seeking ways to enable and empower students to self-identify, including the promotion and communication of University Centre Leeds as a safe space in which to self-identify.
- We will continue to enhance our data monitoring of GTRSB staff numbers and support their professional and personal development.
- We will continue to investigate the barriers to access and participation for students from the GTRSB community, to ensure relevant support is made available and to create a welcoming environment by understanding the culture and learning needs of these community groups.
- We commit to building a supportive and welcoming culture for GTRSB students, increasing our understanding of their cultural and learning needs through an exploration of barriers to access and participation.
- We have established a designated key named contact person for GTRSB students and potential students. This contact is the HE Progression and Wellbeing Officer.
- We will raise awareness of the GTRSB Into HE Pledge and the initiatives put in place to provide an open and safe environment for GTRSB students, and will ensure that students and staff across departments and faculties are aware of the support available to GTRSB students at University Centre Leeds. This will include creating a dedicated webpage on the University Centre Leeds website to highlight the support available.
- We raise awareness of the barriers GTRSB communities and students may face in society and in relation to access and participation through regular dissemination of CPD activity, research, and scholarly activity, and commit to ensuring staff development exists to continue to raise awareness.
- We will seek to develop GTRSB student and staff forums/societies, both within our institution and in collaboration with other HE providers and community organisations across West Yorkshire.
- We will work with relevant institutional parties to ensure GTRSB is considered within all relevant policies and practices and encourage all staff and students to challenge prejudice, derogatory language, and discrimination against GTRSB.
- We will continue in our work to take a whole-institution approach to decolonising/diversifying the curriculum and in developing a culturally responsive pedagogy.
- We have established a designating a key named contact within our WP and Outreach Team for working with GTRSB communities and potential students to ensure support is provided through recruitment to make an informed decision, lead on outreach activity, oversee workstreams, attend regular training, working/action/steering group participation, and represent University Centre Leeds in collaborative projects with other FE and HE providers.
- We will continue, and strengthen, our current distinct stream of outreach and engagement activities with local GTRSB communities, ranging from primary school ages through to parents, carers, and adults.
- We will continue to monitor and evaluate our GTRSB outreach activities, collecting the views of current and potential GTRSB students to ensure the appropriateness and effectiveness of targeted outreach activities. This will include a review of how to best use the Show Racism the Red Card Education Pack.
- We will communicate the support available to GTRSB young people via our work with school, colleges, community organisations, and other external partners, including within our Outreach Booklet and on our website.
- We will tailor our messages to include ones which GTRSB students will find supportive.
- We will develop a GRTSB student support package.
- We will expand our current ambassadorial and mentoring opportunities for students from underrepresented groups to include GTRSB students, graduates, and community spokespeople to work with members of their communities who are considering progression in FE and HE, and/or returning to education as adult learners.
- We will continue and strengthen our collaborative work with partner universities, local authorities, charities, and other third-sector organisations, to exchange knowledge, share good practices, and develop tailored support and outreach activities to support those from GTRSB communities access and transition into HE.
- Our WP Strategy 2021-2025 includes a commitment to reaching out to students from GRT communities and we commit to expanding this to include Showmen and Boater communities.
- To help GTRSB young people make informed decisions about their future, FE, HE, and degree choices, and their FE or HE application, we can offer the following at all educational stages and transition points:
- Personalised one-to-one support and tours;
- GTRSB Taster Days (both in the community and on-site);
- One-to-one Application support;
- Contextual admissions;
- Support for parents, carers and families.
- We will commit to focussing on GTRSB inclusion and positively promoting GTRSB cultures across University Centre Leeds.
- We will continue, and enhance, the celebration of GTRSB cultures and heritage, including activity focussed on Gypsy, Roma, Traveller History Month (June), Holocaust Memorial Day events (January) to include Roma genocide, and the commemoration of European Roma Holocaust Remembrance Day (August). We will also consider events like Crystal’s Vardo play, for example.
- We will encourage the student voice in taking a whole-institution approach to diversifying the curriculum and in developing a culturally responsive pedagogy.
We are proud to be associated with GTRSB Into HE Pledge and welcome the opportunity to commit to the pledge to ensure that those from GTRSB communities are fully supported in making informed choices. We look forward to working with partners, participating in the GTRSB Into HE Network, and in supporting GTRSB students throughout their higher education journey.
Dr Sarah Marquez
Dean of Higher Education