Excellence vs inclusivity and participation?

I’m just back from a month in the UK, where there seems to be much doom-and-gloom about the post-Brexit impact on higher education and universities (I’m not suggesting this is unfounded; all analysis I’ve read suggest this worry is well-founded). This morning, I read this piece in the Guardian about the push for ‘excellence’ and (related) exclusivity in (some) universities in the UK, and how this potentially works againstĀ developing more inclusive and diverse student bodies. Then I read this piece, again in the Guardian, about the scrapping of maintenance grants for the poorest of students, which indicates another way in which participation from certain marginalised groups will likely be reduced. They are just two points of a complex discussion of the role of the university, and the place (and obligations?) of universities in contemporary (western) societies – including the tensions between ‘private benefit’ and ‘public good‘ type arguments and perceptions.

Related to this question of who makes it in to our classrooms (and what we do to get them there, make them feel welcome, keep them there, and support them to flourish), one of my favourite presentations at the British Psych Society’s Psychology of Women Section conference was from Leeds Beckett academic Glen Jankowski, talking about diversity and inclusivity projects around race/ethnicity, in both the psychology classroom, and the university more generally. He discussed various projects and practices, linking to great resources like Leeds University’s anti-racism toolkit.

Diversity in tenure decisions

I’ve just read a piece in Inside Higher Ed which highlights the new decision by California’s Pomona College to now include being “attentive to diversity in the student body” among the criteria for teaching quality, as assessed for tenure decisions. The initiative seems to be both staff- and student- led. Although such ‘rules from above’ are often critiqued (as the article outlines), I see time and time again, the way ‘inclusivity’ and concerns about diversity become the ‘nice to haves,’ always secondary to the really important criteria for excellence that are used to judge practice in the university sector. I