The University of Birmingham and the University of Manchester have been awarded more than £400,000 by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), to develop and pioneer a programme of student ambassadors to help improve diversity and inclusion.

The collaborative Diversity and Inclusion Student Ambassador project will build upon the University of Birmingham BME Student Ambassador programme and an existing project at Manchester University on diversity and well-being.

It forms part of a £2.4 million programme by HEFCE who are funding over 60 projects to tackle a range of issues faced by students; including sexual harassment, racism and other forms of discrimination.

The projects have been developed with students, who will have pivotal roles in their delivery. They cover a wide range of activity, including training and raising awareness, digital innovation, and new approaches to prevention and reporting.

Professor Una Martin, Deputy Pro-Vice Chancellor for Equalities said:

‘Our aim is to support each of our exceptional and ambitious students to develop a personal journey through their education at the University of Birmingham. Our BME Student Ambassador programme has received national recognition, as a practical and effective approach to supporting and celebrating the success of Black and ethnic minority (BME) students. 

‘This project will enable us to support our partners to establish Ambassador programmes in other institutions and also to expand the scope of our programme to focus on nationality, gender and religion or belief.’

The Diversity and Inclusion student Ambassador project has a number of objectives:

  • To provide safe spaces for students;
  • Promote race equality by accessing toolkits, information and resources to use with staff and students;
  • To undertake activity and appropriate action that lets students give feedback and talk to staff about how they can contribute to inclusive learning and teaching environments;
  • Increased student’s sense of belonging and build up meaningful relationships between students and staff through the development of internal and external networks;
  • Empower students to tackle the negative effects of stereotyping, to safely challenge racism, sexual harassment and other forms of discrimination on campus;
  • Evaluate the impact of student and staff led interventions.

The student ambassadors will undertake a series of activities in collaboration with their school's equality and diversity champion, a member of academic or professional staff. These activities could focus on making the curriculum more diverse and inclusive, or look at producing an online publication, providing a voice for both students and staff. Other activities might include social and careers events, individual mentoring and drop in sessions.

Jane Tope, who set up the BME Ambassador scheme at the University said:

‘The BME Student Ambassador scheme was developed in partnership with our students in 2013. Since then the Scheme has become acknowledged as an effective way of supporting and celebrating the success of our BME students across the University. I am delighted that the Ambassador Scheme is going to be expanded and replicated at other Universities. I would like to thank all of the Staff and Students who have been involved in the scheme and contributed to its success.’

A further £50,000 has been granted to Birmingham and Cardiff University to carry out campaign work addressing issues around sexual harassment, sexual violence and hate crime on campus.

Activities will involve targeted campaign work to raise awareness and the development of sustainable bystander intervention programmes. This will include providing online information and training materials, as well as more intensive face to face training. This will have a significant peer-led element in partnership with Students' Unions and external agencies.

For media enquiries please contact Rebecca Hume, Communications Manager, University of Birmingham on 0121 414 9041.

The grants, from HEFCE’s Catalyst Fund were issued in response to a report by the Universities UK Harassment Task Force which explored the nature and scale of the problem in higher education, and highlighted the need for institutions to respond more effectively.