Inclusive goals for student community

The British Psychological Society undergraduate student group has, for the first time, introduced an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead onto its committee. Ella Rhodes spoke to Felix Nbebele about what he hopes to achieve during his time in the group, as well as the new Chair of the committee Aiko Leung.

While working in the NHS for 15 years as a mental health nurse and later as a cognitive behavioural therapist, Ndebele said he became aware that there was an under-representation of staff from BAME communities in both psychology positions and senior roles in the organisation. Now a first-year online psychology conversion master’s student (University of Derby), Ndebele said he wanted to join the committee due to a belief in equality. ‘I believe that all human beings, when given a fair chance in life, can achieve their goals and reach their maximum potential. Sadly, life is not utopian, and people are confronted by inequalities daily which cause a lot of frustration and despair to those on the receiving end.

‘Through doing research, I have realised that the BPS mirrors the NHS in that there is a lack of representation in staff from the BAME community in the senior positions (see Roger Kline on the ‘snowy white peaks of the NHS’, and Romila Ragavan on the experience of BAME clinical psychology doctorate applicants). Katrina Scior and others indicate that the under-representation of people from BAME backgrounds begins at the selection stage onto Doctorate Clinical Psychology courses. From the GCSE, A-level and undergraduate courses, there are a lot of students from the BAME community, but they do not seem to make it to the top, which raises questions on the impartiality of the BPS.’ Ndebele said that while he was aware that inequality affected many protected characteristics including age, disability, sexual orientation and gender, examining issues which BAME people face is an important first step in tackling inequalities across the board.

Leung, the new Chair of the Student Committee, is a third-year undergraduate student majoring in Psychology with Education at UCL. She said she wanted to apply for the role for numerous reasons – partly due to an appreciation for the diversity of BPS events and activities, a desire to work with the student community, and given her experience as a student who is originally from Hong Kong.

‘I do think that a lot of international students are struggling to find a path to get into psychology careers in the UK. Since the procedure and access to funding to enter psychology-related careers and postgraduate studies here in the UK can be quite different – I feel like there is currently a lack of information and advice for these individuals.’

Leung said many international students can struggle with getting placements for valuable work experience to move into psychology-related professions, and said, in general, during her time as Chair she hoped to create an environment where all people can feel included. ‘I want to create a harmonious platform for all people from different backgrounds regardless of their race, age, gender, language and social status, which they can actively participate in and grow. Not only can they feel included, but they can also bring in their unique points of view into enhancing the community as a whole.’

Leung also stressed the importance of getting to know the demographics of student members and to reach out for regular feedback to understand their needs. She said it was important to recognise that not all undergraduate students were aged between 18 and 22, and that the format and content of student events, advice and activities should be more inclusive.  

She also spoke of a desire to promote research participation in the student community and said she hoped to create a research participant recruitment portal for student projects and to launch a postgraduate-undergraduate research mentorship scheme. During her time as Chair, Leung said she aimed to create more inclusive academic, career, and research opportunities for students across the UK and hoped to collaborate more with other international psychology-related student organisations.

During his time as Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Ndebele said he hoped to drive change, speak out about inequalities in BPS programmes and have conversations with the BPS leadership and champion the reform of psychology positions. ‘I want to reach out and encourage students from BAME backgrounds to take up psychology courses and to aspire to take up roles in the psychology discipline. I also want to ensure that the BPS leadership listens and addresses the concerns raised by the student committee. There are some changes to be made on how students are recruited to the doctorate programmes, and I want to ensure that there is representation of the BAME community in teaching and recruitment to psychology programmes.’

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