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Project funded by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education

Many UK universities have adopted equality and diversity policies, and an increasing number of organisations are realising that improving workforce diversity can benefit both employers and staff.

The University of Bradford is seeing improvements in numbers of both black and minority ethnic (BME) staff and students. However, unless changes in staff and student profiles is mirrored at senior level, the University risks missing out on the full benefits that diversity can bring. The CULM project will establish a ‘learning partnership’ scheme, aimed at widening the pool from which future leaders and managers within the University can be drawn. The project will bring together senior leaders/managers within the University with BME staff, to offer personal ‘mutual’ learning.

The project objectives are to enable development, in relation to equality and diversity, and to provide progression opportunities.

Additionally, it will offer the opportunity to learn from a ‘partner’s’ experience to help increase confidence and encourage reflective practice. The outcomes of the project will be to produce both raised awareness of the experience and perceptions of BME staff; and a greater understanding, by BME staff, of senior management thinking.

This will lead to BME staff being in the position to devise and implement their own career development plans, thereby increasing their suitability for senior management posts.

Under the scheme, the senior manager will provide a wider perspective of the University and how to build a successful senior career within it. The BME staff member will provide a wider perspective on the issues relating to diversity. Both participants will give honest feedback and work to a mutual learning agenda.

The project utilises the action learning framework. It consists of a ten-month programme, and will follow fundamental principles:

  • Gaining commitment for the scheme
  • Learning and adapting aspects of similar schemes running elsewhere
  • Preparation of senior managers and BME staff for both the learning partnership and the contract process
  • Partnership activities over 6 months with a minimum of 6 meetings
  • The continual management, monitoring and evaluation followed by full project dissemination

This is the first phase of a project, which will be rolled out to other levels of management, and will create a broader, more diverse, approach to developing potential leaders.

Additionally, the issues of equality and diversity remain a high profile agenda for the University, government, and other public sectors. This project will further enhance Bradford's already strong reputation for innovation and development in this area and will enable us to become a model of 'Best Practice' for others to learn from and follow. We will be making knowledge work for ourselves and others.

For further information, please contact Professor Uduak Archibong.