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At the heart of the Black Awarding Gaps & Decolonisation Forum were the three student-facilitated workshops. The student teams from Cycle 4 of the APP PAR Project designed these workshops by drawing on previous APP PAR Project research projects, from Cycles 2 and 3. They selected these topics as the most immediately relevant for creating more racially inclusive educational experiences at Cambridge. During the hour sessions, they welcomed the opportunity for discussion with Forum participants interested in taking forward student-led recommendations for action. 

Workshop 1:  Transition in and through Cambridge

  • Facilitators: Doris Darkwah, Jordan Byrne and Zeena Elhassan

This workshop reviewed and extended findings from Cycle 2 of the APP PAR Project (First Year Transition), which looked at different induction experiences of Black students in Arts/Humanities and STEMM courses. Participants were encouraged to reflect on their own perceptions of a ‘normative’ educational experience at Cambridge, as well as the disciplinary assumptions that form the hidden curriculum in different fields of study.  Strategies to strengthen Black students' sense of belonging while countering feelings - or assumptions - about 'imposter syndrome' were explored through activities involving small group discussion and mind-mapping.  

Agreed recommendations include the need for: 

1. University services to share responsibility for coordinating and adequately funding anti-racism workshops/equality initiatives to be delivered in a meaningful way, for staff and Black students (i.e. EDI, CCTL, BAH, and ARDC), to take the onus off students to experience/point out structural inequalities and to better equip them to recognise and deal with racism rather than internalise or explain it 

2. Recruitment (and payment) Black student advocates and staff partners to enhance transition projects (e.g review, evaluate and update induction packs and social media pre-entry with CAO and College teams) 

3. Evaluation of the transition experience to and through the University, with attention to how Black students are supported through degree life-cycle (e.g. identification of pinch-points, where coordinated support and networking would be welcome and helpful). 

Workshop 2: Decolonisation of teaching and learning

  • Facilitators: Myesha Jemison, Cheyenne Williams, Antonia Antrobus-Higgins and Hadeal Abdelatti

This workshop extended the findings from student researchers in Cycle 2 of the APP PAR Project (Representation in the Curriculum) and Cycle 3 (Decolonisation of Teaching and Learning). It provided a space for participants to reflect on the relevance and potential impact of ‘decolonisation’ in their course or discipline, and invited discussion about the variety of approaches that might contribute to a more racially inclusive educational environment, including student engagement and designing representation across the curriculum. The activities included small group discussion, trialling a framework for decolonisation of teaching and learning, and considering the recommendations for action from previous student researcher projects. 

Agreed recommendations include the need for: 

4. Support for coordination and communication of past work around decolonisation of the curriculum to preserve institutional memory 

5. Establishment of a decolonisation working group/hub to collaborate, update and share decolonisation resources that are tailored for different disciplines/faculties (e.g. connected to the Legacies of Slavery work) 

6. Development of a coordinated approach for staff/student collaboration to review representation in the curriculum (e.g. Black advocates recruited per School)  

Workshop 3: Intersections of race and mental health

  • Facilitators: Adaiah Hudgins-Lopez, Iman Abdul-Karim and Randy Forson

The workshop prompted a discussion on whether structural inequities within the learning environment at Cambridge can contribute to poor mental wellbeing that are exclusive to Black students. It extended the findings emerging from previous APP PAR Projects (e.g., Cycle 3 project on Intersection of Race and Mental Health). The workshop participants were invited to reflect on themes of hypervisibility, representation, belonging, expectations to represent among others through small group activities and consider the recommendations for action from previous student researcher projects.

Agreed recommendations included the need for:

7. Recognition and support for allocation of safe spaces outside of the normal academic spaces for Black students to escape the pressures of ‘Black excellence’ 

8. Colleges to intentionally and regularly signpost where students can find “their people” in other parts of the university (racial group/interests/hobbies etc).  

9. Payment, compensation and support for students that recognises their own expertise as well as the time/emotional labour of representation work, for example: an award or qualification that they can carry forward after graduating, and follow-up support to manage their own wellbeing