Pathways to Success

Inclusive institutions offer all students, regardless of their background or entry level, the opportunity to succeed. Inclusive education is not just about academic grades. It involves gaining additional personal attributes such as social and practical skills, lifelong friendships, and a fulfilling sustainable future career (York et al, 2015; Cachia et al, 2018). Encouraging students to reach their potential by adopting a fair and inclusive approach will ensure that success is achievable to all. Importantly, success is dependent on a student’s understanding of the norms, cultures and behaviours of higher education. Students who are from historically disadvantaged backgrounds or are the first in their family to access higher education are less likely to have accumulated this understanding. To be inclusive the institution will make its norms and expectations as transparent as possible.

Examples of how to do this might include:

Making programme expectations clear.
All students benefit from knowing what is expected from them throughout their programme. For example, providing a clear explanation detailing how UK degree classifications work will help students to understand academic expectation, and the link between academic grades and future career or study plans.
Demystify and avoid the use of academic jargon.
Using clear and understandable language in all programme materials will ensure that outcomes and opportunities are explicit.
Constructive ongoing reviews of academic progress.
Regular reviews of academic achievement with appropriate staff will allow students to focus on academic issues, future targets, and address potential support needs. Early identification of future career aspirations also allows for action planning and bespoke support and signposting.
Proactive monitoring of student engagement.
Routine monitoring of engagement can identify students at risk of withdrawal at an early stage. Monitoring systems should be designed to support staff and students rather than penalising non-attendance, and should acknowledge complex personal circumstances that may impact engagement.
Embedding institutional support services into programme delivery.
Inclusive programmes will embed introductions to services such as central academic skills teams, or student wellbeing teams. Doing this early in the programme encourages engagement with relevant services and reduces student anxieties about seeking support.
Use student facing materials that demonstrate inclusivity and success.
This could involve student facing marketing materials making use of ‘real’ student narratives. For example, highlighting students who have achieved success despite needing to suspend their studies or due to ill health could make for powerful role models.
Effective use of mentoring & role models.
This can support inclusivity by demonstrating to students available possibilities and potential career opportunities. Examples might include involving alumni in career events, collaboration with prospective employers and feeder colleges, and internship opportunities. Role models within the curriculum will represent the diversity of the student body.
Use additional supportive mechanisms to enhance student self-belief and confidence.
Inclusive programmes will embed activities that build student autonomy, responsibility and self-confidence. This may involve partnering with external organisations or targeted programmes to support particular groups of students.
Ensuring that placement or external opportunities are equitable to all.
Some students may potentially be disadvantaged if a placement opportunity is likely to incur additional travel or time commitments. Students with paid jobs may be unable to commit to a lengthy placement, and students with disabilities may face additional challenges in accessing placements. Placements, work experience, and extracurricular opportunities should be carefully managed to ensure inclusivity.