RAFA2 work undertaken at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) had two overlapping elements:
Student consultants operated as researchers instead of running CPD sessions and masterclasses: In the two Humanities and Social Science Schools, qualitative investigation (questionnaires, interviews, focus groups) involved student researchers (consultants) in which students and staff were asked to consider (and explain) their opinions and experiences of the BAME attainment gap, how the gap might be addressed, and what the enablers of and obstacles to addressing the gap might be.
Student produced resources: This was the development (primarily by the student researchers) of resources linked to the issues that both framed and emerged from the qualitative investigation. Student involvement in this project was high, although not in terms of numbers. Six BAME students (four undergraduates and two recent graduates) from the same faculty of the participating Schools were recruited as ‘student consultants’, in effect ‘researchers’ to gather data, undertake analysis and report writing, and develop ideas for interventions. The Project Lead took a strong role in mentoring the students to raise awareness of, and develop critical framings around, questions of race, student experience and the BAME attainment gap. One of the significant outcomes from this work was insight into the rewards and challenges of undertaking such work with students.
The investigation used questionnaires, one-to-one interviews and focus groups with staff, and separately with students. Participation for both groups was voluntary. Data was thematised by the project team (lead and student researchers). Further analysis was then undertaken by the Project Lead and this formed the basis for reports with findings and recommendations to both participating Schools. Limitations of the research were noted, including the small number of study respondents (e.g. across two Schools, eight staff interviews, nine staff focus group participants, eight staff questionnaire responses, 22 student interviews), time constraints around the data analysis and theorisation, and emerging concerns over the impact on student researchers by undertaking investigative work into subjects where they were personally invested in.
The work was strongly informed by Critical Race Theory and other theorised positions around race in the academy. The small group of student consultants worked intensively with the Project Lead, engaging in a number of critical key readings on the subject of race, education/Higher Education and the BAME disparity, with the RAFA2 questions serving as an academic problem space to be understood. Students produced academic summaries in relation to the texts, the issues it raised and the insights it provided on the BAME disparity. These are included in the etoolkit.