sparqs is currently working with four institutions – Edinburgh University, Fife College, SRUC and the University of the West of Scotland – on a pilot project to monitor the diversity of course representatives.
Establishing the diversity of course reps across Scottish universities and colleges is a valuable piece of work in its own right. Gathering this information is a critical first step in advancing the equality and diversity of student representation – you cannot manage what you don’t measure. It will also create an evidence-base for supporting further activities and initiatives to improve diversity, as well as providing a benchmark against which future activity can be monitored and measured.
In addition, measuring the diversity of course reps will provide metrics for individual institutions that can feed in to other existing strands of work and formal reporting requirements in which they are already engaged, e.g. Athena SWAN, Gender Action Plans, quality frameworks and Outcome Agreements.
The pilot has been overseen by a short-term working group, comprising sparqs staff and representatives from each of the participating colleges and universities. This has ensured the active engagement of the institutions in the development of all aspects of the research design and, ultimately, created a questionnaire and methodology that are fit for purpose. We also liaised with the Equality Challenge Unit throughout the early developmental stages of the project, drawing on their experience and expertise.
The participating institutions are currently distributing the questionnaire and gathering data. The next stage of the pilot will be analysis and interpretation of the results. The working group is meeting in January 2018, when ECU will be delivering a workshop to help us consider issues to do with benchmarking (i.e. what populations are used as comparators and how they are selected) and the value of evidence (i.e. some of the things sparqs and the individual institutions could do with the research results).
Following on from the pilot, sparqs plans to extend the research to all interested colleges and universities in 2018/19. We are aware of many of the barriers that exist around questionnaire-based research and the sensitivities of gathering data around protected characteristics. Delivering the project in this stepped way will give us scope to learn from the pilot and improve our methodology before rolling it out across Scotland, giving the research a far greater chance of success.
For more information about the pilot, please contact Lindsay Isaacs, Development Consultant, by email - Lindsay.Isaacs@sparqs.ac.uk or by phone - 07469 354245.