BME Success and Belonging at QMUL: long table events and research with the ERS team

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Nadia Hafedh, Dushant Bhavna Patel and Dr Daniel Hartley on using Long Table events to research BME student experiences.

In the video:

Nadia Hafedh (Undergraduate student in School of Politics and International Relations at Queen Mary, University of London)

Dushant Bhavna Patel (Undergraduate student in School of English and Drama at Queen Mary, University of London)

Dr Daniel Hartley (Postdoctoral research fellow in Engagement, Retention and Success department at Queen Mary, University of London)

About this project:

This video focuses on the “BME Success and Belonging” project led by Dr Daniel Hartley of the Engagement, Retention and Success team at QMUL.

As part of this project, the team – Dushant, Nadia and Daniel – organised Long Table events at which students and staff could attend, give their views and listen to others on topics around Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students’ experiences at QMUL and in higher education.

This February 2017 article from QMUL’s student newspaper, The Print, reports on one of the Long Table events in more detail.

Click here to learn more about the Engagement, Retention and Success team at QMUL.

The Long Table format was created by Prof. Lois Weaver, Professor of Contemporary Performance at QMUL. Click here to read more about the Long Table format and download a template.

Work emerging from the project:

Dushant, Nadia and Daniel presented a paper entitled “Long tables and engaging under-represented students” at the RAISE (Researching, Advancing and Inspiring Student Engagement) Conference in September 2017. You can read the abstract below.

Long Tables and Engaging Under-Represented Students

Traditional formal approaches to discussion within HE contexts often reproduce power relations inherent to the topic being discussed (i.e. focus groups progress via distinction between researcher and researched, staff/student liaison committees limit discussion to institutional criteria, and panel discussions include boundaries of expert/lay people). In such instances, staff, researchers, panel experts and so on are generally able to manage the flow of conversations, the turns of speaking, and target specific agendas. As part of an Action Research study exploring the experiences of black and ethnic minority students attending an urban UK university, two student researchers collaborated with university staff to hold a ‘long table’ event. In contrast to traditional approaches, the long table format aims to prevent any singular individual or set of topics taking prominence, and sets only a broad topic as the agenda of discussion. It relies upon spontaneous, often emotive and provocative expressions of personal experience and opinion to encourage everybody to engage in dialogue. This presentation will examine what implications the long table format and our use of it may have had for engaging with under-represented students, with a particular focus on students of color. We will show that the usual emphasis placed upon depth and breadth of understanding in traditional models of discussion is displaced by a sprawling, often messy informal kind of discussion. Though the long table format is as such inherently ‘risky’, it can also reveal the potential for hope and institutional change, as discussion is prefigured less by the kind of data that institutions want to access. Yet the productive potential of the long table format can be limited when the organisation of an event is not embedded within the community it aims to empower (in our case, students of colour). As well as this, attendance and vocal or written engagement at long tables are often shaped by background characteristics and existing racialised, gendered, classed etc experiences. Therefore, long tables can reproduce the power relations they aim to question and undermine by allowing more assertive individuals to dominate a conversation and leave the most marginal voices unheard. While our use of long tables has led to vital discoveries and has empowered some voices, we suspect that other students with equally insightful and valuable reflections on inequalities in HE are still unable to share these and have influence over decision-making.

This paper was presented on 7th September 2017 at the RAISE 2017 conference. Click here to see the conference website.