Current Equality, Diversity and Inclusion projects taking place at UCL Biochemical Engineering
A comparative study looking at underrepresented engineering students in different institutional contexts: Investigating what contributes towards a holistic engineering student experience of international and home students (CEE EERG)
Engineering is often cited as a discipline that actively promotes social mobility via widening participation partnerships with schools and colleges. However, the Engineering UK briefing Social Mobility in Engineering (2018) argues that there is further work required to ensure that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds can pursue a career in Engineering and that ‘unequal educational outcomes are a clear obstacle to social mobility in engineering’ (p.2). to participation and engagement across the discipline. In this project we analyse the student experience as reported by the student themselves. This includes the learning experience and performance but at the same time places great emphasis on aspects of inclusion, wellbeing and the relevant support mechanisms. We will not only paint a picture of the status-quo, but also co-create new provision or support measures in key areas that would add the most to the student experience and success prospect.
Investigating the challenges of teamwork for 1st year undergraduate students (ChangeMakers)
Literature has shown that the ability to work in teams is one of the most highly coveted skills by engineering employers (Levy and Rodkin, 2016). On the Biochemical Engineering programme (BEng/MEng), teamwork is present across the programme curriculum. The ENGF0001 module managed by the Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP) at faculty level, is the first exposure to teamwork that our 1st year biochemical engineering UG students get in term 1. They work in interdisciplinary teams with chemical engineering and biomedical engineering students to solve a global issue.
Whilst face-to-face (f2f) teamwork allows for important social nuances in communication, this becomes challenging when working remotely. The pandemic has forced educators to move to the online environment which has not only impacted the way we teach but also how students interact with each other and engage with teaching material, which has in turn highlighted gaps in staff support. The objectives are as follows: - Understand the challenges 1st year UG students face with teamwork in remote settings vs. in-person vs. a blend of both. -Discern any difficulties in teamwork related to inclusivity (e.g. language/cultural barriers, mental/physical disabilities etc.). - Gather information on how teaching staff could better support students working in teams for the first time at university (incl. how it can best feed into our current SoRA/EC system).
This has now completed phase one and the team aims to start the second phase in early 2024 and expand the number of modules.
Future implications for industry and academia.
UCL Biochemical Engineering is looking into using a virtual laboratory as a teaching took to help bring students to the same level before they begin to work in the physical laboratory which will help to make our facilities more accessible. Labster may also help build up employability skills for our students that may have resulted from the pandemic lockdown.
BAME stakeholders in academic disciplines to help with the delivery of inclusive curriculum content.
Summary: BAMEhack will establish a 12-15 month process, scalable to any HEI, that brings staff and students together with a common purpose to re-discover and highlight (‘unhide’) BAME stakeholders and their contributions pertinent to a given academic discipline/sub-discipline, with the explicit aim of revising and updating programme content.
Core project staff plus assisting professional services stafff and students, whose time is purchased from project budget, will support delivery of separate staff-led and student-led BAMEhack sessions with the purpose of capturing data and knowledge of disciplinary BAME stakeholders. The process of delivering and supporting these sessions will inform the development of a written, discipline-agnostic (i.e, with wide appeal and application) set of guidelines to assist Departments across UCL.
The sessions will adopt the model of ‘wikithon’ events; where appropriate ‘entries’ and contributions to any given topic or discipline are documented, using both word of mouth and search engines, such as Google, and databases such as UCL IRIS, PubMed and Web of Science. However, unlike a ‘wikithon’, the output will not be a Wikipedia entry but a resource pack, provided on a platform such as Moodle, available to Programme Directors and Module Leads.
This is a core UCL-funded activity to diversify the curriculum with a view to improving the attainment gap. The aim is to work on two departments this year, two more the year after, and then expand it beyond Engineering. Next term BAME stakeholders in Biochemical Engineering took part in an activity (specifically outside of the ED&I Committee). In term two students and staff met to look at the differences between the groups next term
One of the aims of the project is for staff to engage with students on the subject of BAME. A noted output was that some students believe that we only prepare our students to work in big pharma in western EU and North America rather than understanding the global reach of UCL Biochemical Engineering.
The BAME Awarding Gap Project
The aim of this project is to investigate the gaps in personal tutoring that may limit the inclusivity and full integration of BAME students and its links to academic performance and progression of BAME students. The project has these expected outcomes: · Improved BAME student satisfaction as measured through departmental experience surveys (Co-created surveys using departmental EDI committee and student input) · Evaluation of personal tutoring enhancements on BEng/MEng programme academic performance, using normal awarding gap metrics
The current focus is to create an action plan, and the proposal would be to look at the intersection between central university and departmental data to identify issues. A secondary aim would be to look at IEP module awarding, as places are given on grades and the way this occurs in the lifecycle of the student, identifying the points at which an intervention may have a positive impact on student attainment outcomes.
There is also a proposal to encourage students to develop a more inclusive curriculum. The aim is to start this next year with a view to expanding to design projects e.g. letting students choose more aspects of the context such as what kind of vaccine and where, globally, it may be manufactured.
UCL Biochemical Engineering is currently preparing its submission for the renewal of Athena Swan status to be presented in 2024.