Sport science programmes promote greater diversity

Sport journalism student Adam Tiffen reports on EDI issues in sport science education

LJMU’s School of Sport and Exercise Science is building EDI into its undergraduate programmes in a bid to reverse the white-male domination of the discipline.

A team, led by Dr Tori Sprung, has embedded principles of equity, diversity and inclusion into six of their undergraduate programmes as the School bids to provide new inspiration and role models for prospective students and applicants. The hope is that this work will contribute towards diversifying their student population, while also enhancing the educational experience for existing students.

Science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) subjects are traditionally white-male dominated and the team’s observations suggest that a lack of diversity at both student and staff levels are related within their school.

“We have a chicken and egg situation, which is unsustainable. If we hope to diversify our staff role models then we need to be cognisant of the students we are recruiting,” said Tori.

BAME role models

Tori, a reader in the school, led an audit across three courses (Sport and Exercise Science, Sport Psychology and Sport Coaching) to understand how and where principles of EDI featured in their programmes. One of the teams observations was a distinct lack of black, Asian or ethnic minorities among staff, partners and guest speakers.

“The students who come to study sport and exercise science are our next generation of scientists. Sadly, we don’t have a great deal of diversity in our student population and that feeds into future staff and continues the challenge of a limited repertoire of diverse role models,” she told delegates at the Students at the Heart Conference.

It has been identified that not being able to see yourself represented in a particular field deters individuals from minorities away from STEMM subjects, including sport sciences. Tori, and the students she’s worked with on this project, feel that the analysis of their own data will enable them to develop specific actions that will help to combat this historic issue.

PhD student Libby Mitchell and professional doctorate student Ellie Glover played central roles in the audit process. Ellie reflected that “these issues weren’t explicitly spoken about amongst the student body but there were discussions amongst my women peers”.

Uncomfortable truths

Libby went on to suggest that “implementing EDI in the smallest way can make a big difference. Even if it’s just changing a picture on a PowerPoint slide, it can really help those in a lecture theatre who identify as a minority. This issue is not something that’s going to go away and I am very proud to be part of a team that have faced some uncomfortable truths head on."

Dr Sprung said she was delighted that now hundreds of students would pass through the these revalidated programmes and have exposure to these principles at such an early stage of their professional lives. “Something that started very small is hopefully going to have a far-reaching and invaluable effect.”

The School of Sport and Exercise Science was the first in the university to school to earn Athena Swan accreditation, and continues to develop their aspirations for Equity, Diversity & Inclusion to enhance their practice, strategies and culture. This inclusive curricula project team consisted of Dr Tori Sprung, Ellie Glover (MSc student), Libby Mitchell (PhD student), Kamran Sheikh (undergraduate student), Dr Lee Graves, Milly Blundell, Cath Walker, Dr David Tod & Dr Ian Sadler. The team would like to acknowledge that this project took inspiration from excellent work conducted by colleagues in the Schools of Humanities & Social Sciences and Biological & Environmental Sciences.


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