Non-traditional students (particularly BAME as well as WP) often face inequality at all stages of their learning experience and more and more the role of WP teams within UAL seems to be not only to support non-traditional students into FE/HE but also to ensure that, once enrolled, students receive all the necessary support required so that their student experience and academic achievements are the best that they can be.
Student retention and achievement statistics relating to the achievement of a good degree (1st or 2:1 classification) at HE demonstrate that academic success rates for this cohort are significantly lower in comparison with others in their peer group, a phenomenon that was discussed during the first Shades of Noir (SoN) Big Debate at CCW and constitutes one of the key aims of the SoN.
I am currently delivering a pilot intervention programme at Wimbledon College of Art (WCA) addressing some of the factors that research (both broad and local) has identified as impacting on academic retention and achievement at creative HEIs. If successful, the programme could be rolled out and the research findings made available across the University.
A number of complex, inter-related factors that may contribute to poorer academic achievement by BAME students have been identified by researchers and the SoN website continues to be a useful source of information regarding current thinking which I use to inform the delivery and ongoing development of this intervention e.g the signposting on the SoN blog to an article from the HEA in December last year which highlighted work focussing on the BAME student experience at Central School of Speech and Drama.
The pilot programme aims to address a small selection of factors that have been shown to negatively impacting on students’ academic success (both from academic research and via direct student feedback) and support them by providing a secure learning environment such that participating students are able to; feel a sense of ‘ownership’ and ‘belonging’ to the college; grow in confidence with regard to developing their own creative voice in the studio and working within an academic framework; nurture the development of peer learning groups and encourage greater levels of social engagement in order to support group learning, networking skills and increase levels of academic literacy.
Two key strands of the programme will be informed in part by the ethos and resources provided by SoN; facilitating tutors will be representative of diverse cultural backgrounds and activities will use SoN as an important signpost/portal to relevant resources and information as appropriate. Hopefully the programme as a whole will begin to address a relative lack of appropriate and relevant social and cultural experiences often available to BAME and non-traditional student cohorts, reducing anxieties about performing to a ‘western studio aesthetic’ and exploring new ideas/philosophies/pedagogies/learning resources in order to support students to access more relevant and diverse primary material for use both in the studio and in relation to their contextual practice studies.