The Inclusive University

Female scientists at Bristol Bright Night

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Contributed by Dee Smart, Co-ordinator Public and Community Engagement

As I am writing this we are at the height of preparations for Bristol Bright Night, a large showcase of research that is happening in the city. Bristol Bright Night is collaboration between Bristol Natural History Consortium, University of Bristol and University of West of England. It is part of European Researchers’ Night, an EU initiative giving the public the chance to meet researchers and find out about their latest discoveries in more than 300 cities. Bristol is only one of 6 UK cities selected to run an event in 2015, and has received funding from the European Commission under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions.  Such events are really great for raising the profile of our university and individual staff or research areas, but also for inspiring young people to consider careers in areas they may not consider otherwise. We see a lot of parents, as well as specialists, who are very interested in speaking to our academics in an informal setting and some of those conversations lead to new collaborations or open up other opportunities.

We are particularly pleased to promote women scientists through such events, and contribute to delivering the Athena SWAN principles in practice.  Here are a couple of examples of researcher spotlights featuring Liz Anderson, Jo Barnes and Corra Boushel.  Do come and visit other research stalls featuring Vyv Salisbury’s Bioluminescent Bacteria, find out from Jess Hoare about the design industry in the South West, or have a go at building a bridge with Adrienn Tomor.

The event on Friday promises to be very vibrant. There will be a great variety of research on show and the programme includes a Researchers’ Fair with over 20 stalls, short talks, interactive demos and debates, film and video installations, and multi-sensory shows in the Planetarium.  Science cocktails, stand-up comedy and a pop-up street theatre inspired by scientific research will also feature in the event.  We are delighted to work with fantastic partner venues, such as At-Bristol Science Centre, Watershed and Bristol Green Capital Lab Space, who will be hosting over 70 individual activities.  We will be welcoming school visits in the morning,  while the evening evens will be open to the general public and family audiences. At-Bristol is opening its doors free of charge after 6pm, so please bring your friends and family. 

If you would like to tweet about the event please use @BrisBrightNight #BristolBrightNight #ERN. Join and share the Facebook event.

The full programme is available here. Please note, although all activities are free, some must be booked in advance via the website. We hope you will be able to join this Friday coming, 6 – 10 pm, at At-Bristol Science Centre.

New customer relationship management system to improve services for disabled students

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Contributed by Christine Little, Senior Project Manager, Strategic Programmes Office

Strategy 2020 Update: Ways of Working 2020

Disabled students will benefit from the introduction of a new customer relationship management (CRM) system to help manage the process of assessing their study needs. This is the first part of an improvement project within the Ways of Working 2020 strategic programme.

From this month the Access West of England (AWE) team and Disability Services will use the CRM system to deliver their service. This will:

• Significantly reduce the risk of breaches of data protection
• Provide more rigorous records of student data
• Make it easier for staff to access and maintain student data
• Enable a more efficient service

AWE provides a service to more than 900 disabled people each year, both UWE students and those going to other higher education institutions, to assess their study support needs.

The next part of the project is to develop an online portal to provide an accessible entry point for students who wish to carry out tasks such as making appointments and submitting enquiries, and provide data with improved security and automated data transfer to and from the CRM system.

Transition Support Service for UWE Students

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Contributed by Annabel Lee, Funds Administrator

The Money Advice and Funds Service (MAFS) is providing a new package of support in 2015/16 for students that have spent time in care homes or foster care. The Transition Support Service will help these students adjust to student life through pre-entry advice, online forums and the UWE/Care Leavers Bursary, for those eligible. We have also initiated a bespoke Peer Assisted Learning (PAL) scheme in which current care leavers mentor these new students in academic skills. Furthermore, students will be offered Financial Health Checks and receive ongoing support from a dedicated Student Support Adviser.

If you come into contact with an applicant who discloses time spent in care, please contact FAO Annabel Lee (named contact for the Transition Support Service). We can then ensure the student is receiving all appropriate support.

Ron Ritchie: his thoughts on leaving UWE

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Contributed by Ron Ritchie, Senior Diversity Champion

A retirement event for UWE's senior diversity champion, Prof Ron Ritchie, was held on 26 August in the Community Hub.
Ron was invited to reflect on his 40 year career in education in the greater Bristol area as a secondary school teacher, primary teacher and leader, local authority advisory teacher and HE teacher and leader.
He explained that he had very mixed feeling about leaving UWE having tried so hard to get here - first in the late 80s - before, several applications later,  he finally arrived here in 2001. He said that he had wanted to work here for a simple reason - it seemed like an institution that shared many of the values he held as important. It turned out to be a move that never disappointed him - he said he had always been immensely proud of the difference UWE makes to its students, its staff, local communities and the  local economy, culture and society. It had, he stated, been a genuine privilege to work here with many highly talented and committed individuals.
He emphasised the importance to him of values - what we hold as important as human beings - and noted that there's a big difference between espousing values and living them out. He said he had always tried to do the latter, not always successfully!
He explained his commitment to social justice and moral purpose was a result of experiencing the transforming power of education on his own life, being the first in his family to go to university. He had left school and started an apprenticeship in the aircraft industry which led to him studying aeronautics and astronautics at Southampton University. Whilst there he found life in student politics and the SU more stimulating and rewarding than his academic work. He spent a lot of time on campaigns such as those related to improving the opportunities for local youth and challenging negative attitudes towards mental health.
At this point, Ron reflected on choices we all have to become a 'prisoner, passenger or participant' in society - he had determined to become a participant and an activist!
He decided to complete his degree and train as a teacher. His experiences on a PGCE at Sussex University, especially in disadvantaged areas like the Moulscombe Estate, reinforced his commitment to fighting injustice and promoting equality. As a young teacher in a challenging Bristol comprehensive, his love of teaching developed and his activism led to him becoming the school's NUT rep.
He explained that his growing understanding and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion was strengthened through living in Bristol and valuing the diversity of its population whilst feeling aggrieved about the inequality he saw. He also referred to his personal experience as a father and how this had informed his understanding of equality issues and increased his commitment to improve things, this included having a daughter who suffered from a serious mental health condition and another who is gay and now a university teacher.
Returning to other values that are important to him, Ron shared his belief in the importance of lifelong and life wide learning - saying he was always happy, even as a professor, to call himself first a foremost a learner. Indeed, he noted, his role as UWE's diversity champion had been a rich learning journey. He said how pleased he was to be supporting Bristol's ambition to be a Learning City as a consultant post his UWE retirement.
Ron stressed how much he had enjoyed teaching and believed that you should always strive for improvement given your responsibilities to learners, young or old. He reminded us that 'you don't have to be ill to get better'!
He talked about how he had always valued research and scholarship - his own PhD had been through action research; evidence-based and research-informed practice. He had written a number of education books, all including case studies of practice in real settings. Through his teaching and as a teacher educator, he had developed his understanding of the importance to professionals of reflection and reflexivity - being self critical and honest with yourself and recognising how who you are changes what happens around you and how others behave.
Later in his career, he had come to appreciate that successful leadership has to be authentic, distributed and person-centred. He stressed that to him 'leadership' was a more important concept than 'leaders' - he believes everyone in an organisation has the potential and should be given opportunities to contribute to leadership capacity.
Ron emphasised his belief in the benefits of collaboration and partnership based on various experiences in his career, for example in an advisory teacher team, in the Education Department (as part of the then S Block 'family' of academic and professional support staff) and more recently in the context of the Cabot Learning Federation.
He returned to leadership and organisations and said we should, perhaps, recognise more often the importance of people over processes. He said his aim had always been to empower others through reward and positive feedback. In that context, he thanked colleagues who had written in support of his National Diversity Champion nomination last year and said how moving and motivating he had found that public feedback.
Ron talked about the importance of significant others in our lives, both professional and personal and thanked those in the room and those unable to be here who had made unique and highly valued contributions to his time at UWE.
He concluded by reflecting on UWE's recent E&D successes and ongoing issues that remain work in progress …
The successes he celebrated included:
• Our ongoing commitments to activities related to widening participation and partnerships with schools in disadvantaged areas;
• The central and secure place of EDI in the UWE strategy, the successful Single Equality Scheme and senior staff commitment;
• The range and impact of staff and student networks;
• Stonewall Workplace index success;
• Athena SWAN success;
• The developing Disability Service for staff;
• Two Ticks accreditation;
• Time to Change commitment;
• Race Equality Charter Mark application;
• The outstanding contribution of HR and the E&D Unit.
Ongoing challenges for UWE that Ron recognised included:
• Further improving the diversity of staff;
• Maintaining inclusivity as a strategic goal, which includes promoting its benefits;
• Continue to probe the 'lived experience of staff' to ensure it is positive for all;
• Celebrate successes and promote role models;
• Find smart ways of measuring the impact of EDI work against the UWE Strategic Plan;
• Continue to build leadership capacity for the agenda;
• Foster more joint working (for example with unions and networks) and partnership with other organisations;
• Join things up to ensure efficacy, efficiency and maximising benefits;
• Develop efficient and constructive approaches to equality analysis;
• Ensure EDI doesn't suffer in the context of further inevitable change and uncertainty in the HE sector.
Ron finished by thanking colleagues for the support and friendship he had been given. He wished all well in continuing to make UWE the special place that it is and furthering the cause of equality, diversity and inclusivity.

Student Disability Service host overseas visitor

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Contributed by Vicki Campbell, Head of Disability Service, Student Partnership Services

At the end of July, the Disability Service hosted a visit for Widad Al Hashmi, the Head of the Special Needs Department from Sultan Qaboos University in Oman.

Widad’s University is in the early stages of supporting disabled students and managing a strategy for inclusion. Widad became interested in learning more from us following a one day visit to UWE as part of a study tour of Universities from the United Arab Emirates organised by the British Council. With the help of SPS Admin and lots of willing colleagues involved in supporting disabled students, we were able to arrange a full shadowing and training programme for Widad.

Widad was overwhelmed with the vast knowledge and experience at UWE:

“I have attended many conferences, workshops and visited different institutions but I have never seen services provided for disabled students as at UWE. Students are getting all kinds of support to help them achieve their full potential in their academic profession and integration in society. The staff I met are qualified, experienced and dedicated. They were very supportive, helpful and made sure I got everything I needed to be equipped with more knowledge and skills required to deal with my responsibilities with greater aplomb at my university”.

I am very grateful to staff across SPS and the wider University who gave up their time
to meet with Widad.

Remember Me: An Understanding of Dementia

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Contributed by Jackie Chelin, Dementia Friend and Deputy Director of Library Services

September is World Alzheimer’s month and to mark the occasion some Dementia Friends Information Sessions are taking place at Glenside. 

Dementia Friends is part of a social action initiative to help to create dementia friendly communities, i.e. communities in which people have an understanding of dementia and the things they can do (however small) to make a difference to people living with dementia. 

The sessions will take place between 14th and 25th September over lunchtime and will last up to an hour.  The sessions are informal, free to all and include some fun activities.  To sign up please follow the links below:

Monday 14 September 2015, Tuesday 15 September 2015, Wednesday 16 September 2015, Friday 18 September 2015

Tuesday 22 September 2015, Wednesday 23 September 2015, Thursday 24 September 2015, Friday 25 September 2015

In addition, on 21st September, there will be a Dementia Café at Glenside Students’ Union bar from 2.30-3.30pm.  This is an opportunity to meet in a friendly environment and to share experiences of dementia.  There will be snacks, refreshments and live music, so please just turn up or email if you have any questions.