University Tips Blog
An image of a group of students with hands joined together.
A headshot image of the author, Sarah Mohammad-Qureshi

by Sarah Mohammad-Qureshi

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Partner at The University of Law

posted on 16 Nov '23

A guide to diversity in university communities

Universities are ideal environments to bring together a blend of people from different backgrounds, with variety in the personal characteristics that shape us, our motivations, experiences, and values.

The student community is undoubtedly more diverse than students entering that space are accustomed to. This is an opportunity not afforded in many social groups or workspaces and is one for students to benefit from.

Interacting with people different to ourselves is important to support our own personal growth through a wider understanding of the world and helps us relate to the communities in which we expect to work.

Students may be daunted by the prospect of diversity – my tips for practitioners to address this:

Misunderstandings about groups of people who are different to us can lead to unnecessary hostility and anxiety. By exploring why students might feel nervous, uncomfortable, or safe around certain people can tell us a lot about how these biases have formed.

At university, students can expect to meet, study, and socialise with people of many different characteristics. These include different disabilities, ethnicities, religions, sexual orientations, and gender identities. This offers fantastic potential for their learning, not only in the diversity of thought from their peers, but also in their own understanding of society, privilege, and inequality. The more interactions that occur will help to change preconceptions and stereotypes. Students can also use this learning to challenge negative associations and see others as individuals and potential friends.

Another benefit to this unique environment is that it facilitates students to expand their social and professional network to include a broader range of people. This exposure to diverse thinking, cultural awareness and equality will directly benefit them by enhancing social and structural inclusion, whatever their future career aspirations. Through this personal growth, they can have a positive impact on the world.

Students can also use this opportunity to become more mindful of barriers and inequalities faced by their peers by considering who is underrepresented and how their journey to higher education differs. This may be the first time they have needed to consider additional factors such as venue accessibility, safety concerns of particular groups, or religious customs.

This is also an opportunity for students to showcase aspects of their own personal attributes and celebrate themselves in a more authentic way than they may have been supported to do previously. By realising the lived experiences of others, we can help create a culture of inclusion and support each other to succeed.

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