Dr. Sana Rizvi


- Lecturer, Early Career Academic Fellow, DMU


“How can universities commit to being a social enterprise and offer empowering spaces to students from BME and from disadvantaged backgrounds?”


In this talk, I will explore how universities can widen access and participation for students from BME and disadvantaged backgrounds by committing themselves to social enterprise.  Widening participation of those groups who have not traditionally entered higher education has become government focus in recent decades. It could be argued that this overriding policy has been offset somewhat in recent years by government austerity, increased university tuition fees resulting in increased student loans, disability cuts, and a restructuring of the higher education landscape. These events have meant that universities face an increasingly difficult challenge to provide nurturing spaces for students, increasing their experiential learning opportunities and diverse employment prospects, and opportunities for empowering local communities.

Recent studies have found that traditional Russell Group universities have increasingly become ‘domains of White-ness’, being less likely to offer places to BME applicants than their equally-qualified White peers (Boliver, 2004, 2013; Noden, Shiner and Modood 2014). For instance, there were more students of Black Caribbean origin enrolled just in London Metropolitan University – a post-1992 university - than at all the Russell Group universities combined (Runnymede, 2007).

Newer and post-1992 universities have been far more responsive in actively engaging in social enterprise to open their doors to BME candidates. Indeed, a report by the Runnymede Trust (2010) found that in 13 higher education institutions in the UK, British BME undergraduates comprised at least 50 per cent of the student populace; of these institutions, ten were post-1992 universities (Weekes-Bernard, 2010). Moreover, all BME graduates except students from Chinese backgrounds were more likely to attend post-1992 universities (Runnymede, 2007). These figures do not specifically report on the national trend of BME students proactively congregating at certain universities with large, existing BME student populations, however, Shiner and Modood (2002) did find that BME students predominantly attended universities close to the family home, in contrast to White British students.

Therefore, although the success of post-1992 universities in attracting BME students may partly be laid at the door of the policies of exclusion employed by Russell Group universities as far as BME and disabled students are concerned, nonetheless, ‘new’ universities such as DMU have proactively promoted wider participation and access amongst BME, disabled and other disadvantaged students. This workshop will explore how this has been done and the ways in which it is enabling students from BME and disadvantaged background to realise their true potential.