Mentoring programme for Black and Minority Ethnic students

Encouraged, enthused and energised by recent social activism and initiatives by Geography students, we have decided to set up a mentorship programme for Black and Minority Ethnic students.

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This new mentorship programme reflects the Department's own ethos and is also informed by multiple reports, the most recent by Black Geographers, that argue that a lack of diversity among geography students stems from three main reasons.

First, that fewer students from low-income and ethnic minority groups take geography at GCSE leading to a smaller number meeting A-levels. In addition, the percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic students who receive 2:1 at the end of their undergraduate degrees is much lower. This means that not only fewer students of colour enter the discipline of geography, but that there are barriers at each subsequent level of education.

We are very pleased to launch our first dedicated mentoring programme for black and minority ethnic students who would like to consider studying Geography at the University of Sheffield. This is a small but vital step in providing greater support to a diverse cohort of future geographers. We pride ourselves on being a welcoming department and believe in building strong relationships between academics and students, so come and join us!

Professor Jenny Pickerill

Head of department

Second, that geography is often not seen as a discipline that is connected to clear professional and vocational outcomes. However, given that educational barriers typically prevent Black and Minority Ethnic students from pursuing postgraduate and PhD programmes, they are also excluded from more aspirational and remuniterave career paths. For example, the International Development Masters run by Sheffield Geography has the highest employment rate of any International Development Masters in the UK. If we work towards supporting Black and Minority Ethnic students at an earlier stage, they would be better equipped to realise their professional ambitions.

Third, geography is perceived as detached and distant from the issues, like racial injustice, that often directly impact Black and Minority Ethnic students. This becomes starker when we see the lack of representation among geography academic staff. These are interrelated, and we are committed to changing both.

Sheffield Geography is proud to have a large percentage of students from local communities. Building on this, and keeping the above points in mind, we are putting an equity programme in place to support Black and Minority Ethnic students. This will take three forms:

  • Support and mentorship for external scholarship applications
    • We are encouraged by a recent announcement of UG and PG scholarships for Black and Mixed-Black students by ESRI and would offer mentorship throughout the application process. The details of the application process are not clear yet, but we are keen on hearing from students who would like our support. 
    • We will identify other such scholarship opportunities and outline our support for these.
  • Mentorship for educational outcomes at different stages
    • We will offer mentorship to GCSE/A-level students to support them towards better A-level outcomes.
    • We will offer mentorship to undergraduate students to work towards better degree outcomes that lead to the next level of education.
  • We are working to gather funding to offer to Black and Minority Ethnic students in order to support their studies at Sheffield Geography.

As a department we are very keen to hear from students and work with them on these opportunities. Please get in touch with Dr Ankit Kumar (ankit.kumar@sheffield.ac.uk) to initiate a conversation.