Stephanie Mullins, Associate Director at specialist business education PR consultancy, BlueSky Education, spoke with Sunitha Narendran, Director of Roehampton Business School, about a total commitment to equality and diversity for an upcoming podcast.
“One of the things that is very important to me is that we need to give opportunities to everyone,” says Professor and Director Sunitha Narendran. “We need to address the equality gap that exists today.”
This is not mere rhetoric in light of the surging social movement that has grown throughout the year. The business school is actively committed to diversity and equality. Currently, 70% of students are from ethnic minority backgrounds and it is a topic close to Narendran’s heart.
“I would like to look at equality and diversity from an inclusivity perspective. How inclusive our curriculum is, how inclusive our societies are. A lot of the research that we do in the business school is related to inclusivity, to ethics, corporate social responsibility, and public good.”
Speaking with Narendran, it is clear to see that she cares about every student and considers each of them as an individual, not just a generalised statistic. “I don’t like the word ‘BAME’. 30% of our students come from South Asian backgrounds, about 25% of our students are Black.” A variety of other minority backgrounds make up the rest of the
diverse student body.
Narendran and I maintain that every student deserves the chance to succeed, regardless of their background, and Roehampton is dedicated to all of them – not just throughout their time at the business school but throughout their future careers too. “When they join a university, they’re making a big step in their life, and they’re also allowing us to feature forever on their CV. I’d like for them to always be engaged with us and come back to us as alumni and continue their education with us as long as they need to and as long as they want to. You never stop learning do you?”
Adapting in the times of COVID
In line with the ever-changing government guidelines, the university is taking all the necessary steps to make university life safe and secure for returning students. Socially distanced classes, one-way systems, perspex screens and residential bubbles are all being put in place. For the business school, there are even more measures to consider, as 76% of their students live off-campus and many of them are older students with jobs to manage as well as their studies.
Staff safety was of paramount importance when deciding which members were able to return to work. Narendran wanted to do the same for her students, writing to each of them asking whether they would like a complete online learning experience. 40% of those who responded said that they would like to go completely online. “We have also given them the choice of coming back at any time. If they tick the box saying they want to learn online and then they change their mind, we’ve also given them the option to come back. I thought that was very important. I think they should be given the choice and they should be given the opportunity to tell us how to learn and we need to
respond to that.”
A sense of community
It is evident that Roehampton appreciates the value of flexibility and individuality when it comes to their students. “We don’t have status hierarchies in the business school. We learn from them as much as they learn from us because they bring so many experiences that they can share with us. They contribute to how they want to learn. It’s a very
interactive learning experience that is very community-focused.”
The students are at the heart of the business school operation. They are given the tools and freedom to succeed in a supportive environment, even in the midst of a pandemic. “Roehampton is a learning community. Inclusivity, equality, these are very important from the perspective of being a business school with a social conscience.” As Narendran proudly says, “Our students have a voice.”