The Wins and the Pitfalls - Designing an Inclusive Learning Environment at a British University Law School

By: Rachel Nir   Tina McKee  

We are a Law School in a new university in the UK. Fifty percent of our undergraduates come from low socio-economic backgrounds and 48% come from minority ethnic backgrounds. Most lecturers within the School are white. UK law is based on Judeo-Christian origins and key statutes and cases have been determined by white jurists. How easy is it to make a learning environment more inclusive in this context? In 2016/17 we conducted a research project on why student attendance at our law classes was in decline. One of the key findings from the quantitative date was that our students from minority ethnic backgrounds attended more than their equivalent white counterparts but achieved less. The ethnicity attainment gap is well known in UK universities but our Law School data presented an unanticipated and unhappy picture. We adopted a two -pronged approach to begin tackling this. Firstly, we invited an external specialist to spend a day guiding the core first year staff on how to write an inclusive syllabus which would better reflect our student body. Secondly, we set up a student discussion group made up of our postgraduate interns who had just completed undergraduate law degrees and who reflected diverse ethnic backgrounds. We met throughout the academic year and took input and guidance from them as we began to try and adapt the learning environment. Our paper reports on our experiences of this two-pronged approach. How did teaching staff respond? What were the wins and what were the pitfalls?

Inclusion, Syllabus, University, Students
Education and Learning in a World of Difference
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Rachel Nir

Reader in Legal Education and Inclusion, Lancashire Law School, University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom
Lancashire, United Kingdom

Rachel Nir, a Reader in Legal Education and Inclusion, joined the Lancashire Law School in 1999 as a Senior Lecturer having worked as a litigator and regulatory lawyer in the City of London. Her key interest is in human rights at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. She has a strong commitment to social justice and mobility. In 2013, she became a member of the Law Society of England and Wales’ Equality and Diversity Committee. She currently acts on two equality steering committees. The first is reviewing the Equality and Diversity Charter System for law firms nationally and the second is improving the Law Society's Bursary Scheme to assist disadvantaged law students with funding for the postgraduate professional stage of education. She is also a trustee for 'Education for Life', a Christian education charity working in Mombasa, Kenya.

Tina McKee

Senior Lecturer, Lancashire Law School, University of Central Lancashire, United Kingdom
Lancashire, United Kingdom

Tina McKee is a senior lecturer and qualified lawyer with a professional background in private client work. Her key teaching and research interests include medical law, mental health law and issues relating to equality and diversity. She also has significant experience in designing and delivering the skills curriculum within Lancashire Law School. Her current research includes analysing and evaluating the attainment gap between white, and black and minority ethnic students engaged in postgraduate professional studies within the School. She is also involved with a project in Zambia to promote educational aspirations amongst high school children and orphans in a deprived area of the capital, Lusaka.