How can we develop an inclusive curriculum which meets the needs of an increasingly diverse student population?

Development Monthly | #16 February 2023 | How can we develop an inclusive curriculum which meets the needs of an increasingly diverse student population?

Nav Ahmed

Principal Lecturer
Quality and Enhancement,
Arden University

Thank you to everybody who attended my working session, “How to use data effectively to enhance the student and staff experience (Case Study)” at the AUA Autumn Conference in November.

The session was well-attended and it was a pleasure to present to such an interactive audience. You all made such valuable contributions, sharing your experiences across your various roles in different institutions so this was incredibly insightful.

Within the session I discussed how, within the Institute of Foundation Studies at Arden University, we have successfully implemented data-informed interventions as a result of reviewing all of the information available relating to the demographics of our Foundation Year students.

For example, on our blended-learning programmes, students are more likely to be mature, from ethnically diverse backgrounds and from all over the world, with over 120 different nationalities represented. In addition, they are more likely to have English as an additional language and to have already obtained Level 3 qualifications on entry, but are less likely to have reported a disability.

Conversely, those studying via distance-learning provision are mostly female, generally younger and predominantly white British. DL students will also typically have Level 2 qualifications on entry and are twice as likely to have declared a disability.

Why is this information useful? More importantly, how can we use this information to implement impactful strategies to ensure a positive student experience?

Firstly, it is clear that we must recognise and celebrate the wonderful diversity of our student population. This must be the starting point. Such a rich variety of cultures and experiences represents a real opportunity and is not to be missed.

Therefore, it is critical to ensure that the curriculum provides ample scope to share knowledge, to compare ideas and to learn from one another. Sessions must be skilfully designed to maximise opportunities for debate and collaborative learning through discussions, presentations and group activities. Examples and reference points should be carefully selected to ensure these are appropriate and relatable. Guest speakers should reflect the range of age profiles, ethnic groups and interests of the audience to which they are presenting. Assessment methods should be varied and enable the development of both verbal and written communication skills.

Where possible, could an element of choice be offered which allows learners to decide upon a subject which is of particular interest to them as individuals? If so, learning can be truly personalised so that irrespective of the business organisation or psychological theory or research topic selected, the learning outcomes can be achieved whilst at the same time empowering the student so that they feel valued and included.

Through the successful development of an inclusive curriculum which truly puts the needs of students at the forefront of decision-making, we have been able to deliver successful outcomes for our students, with Foundation Year students more likely to achieve at least a ‘good’ (i.e. First Class or Upper Second Class Honours) degree classification than their peers who did not undertake a Foundation Year. In light of recent speculation about the future of Foundation Year provision, this case-study provides compelling evidence to endorse the value of a Foundation Year in equipping students with the academic skills needed to excel at Level 4 and beyond.

Promoting greater diversity and inclusion within higher education has always been a subject close to my heart. As a relatively new member of the AUA, having joined last September, shortly before the November conference I was delighted to be appointed as the new Network Coordinator for the AUA Equality and Diversity Network.

The aim of the network is to promote awareness and understanding of equality, diversity, inclusion and widening participation issues, sharing best practice in the sector and creating a forum to discuss shared areas of interest.

We welcome all members who have an interest in EDI and widening participation, so if you are not already a member, we’d be delighted for you to join us as we’re currently planning some exciting events and activities to take place later this year.

Since the Autumn Conference, I have been continuing to champion EDI through my engagement as a Speaker for the BAMEed Network, and this month I was honoured to receive three awards at the inaugural This Is Us Conference – Diversity Impact Business Awards, being named as the winner of the Changemaker and Organisational Champion awards, as well as the This Is Us Overall Champion award for the entry which received the highest score from the judging panel. In addition, I am delighted to have named as a finalist in the “Diversity & Inclusion Leader” category at the West Midlands Leadership Awards 2023 and am looking forward to attending the ceremony in March.

I’m also very much looking forward to the AUA Annual Conference and Exhibition 2023, which is taking place between 2 – 4 July at the University of Warwick. It will be lovely to meet as many of you as possible in-person! The theme for this year’s conference is “Becoming a Higher Education Professional: Continual reinvention in a transforming sector” and this promises to be a fantastic event. Session proposals are currently being invited, therefore if you’ve got a great idea for a workshop, presentation, academic poster or ‘wildcard’ which you’ve like to share with your fellow HE professionals, I’d strongly encourage you to submit your proposal before the deadline of 13 February.

From personal experience, I can tell you that presenting at an AUA Conference is an excellent professional development opportunity and one which I’d highly recommend. There are many benefits including being able to engage in conversations with others with shared interests, network with peers from other institutions to gain different perspectives and to promote the work you’re doing within your organisation, to name but a few.

I hope to see you there in the summer and would love to attend your session so please go ahead and submit your proposal!

Between now and then, I’ll also be working towards achieving Accredited Membership, another of the fantastic package of benefits offered by being a member of the AUA. If you’re not already an Accredited Member or Fellow, I’d recommend looking into the Accredited Membership Scheme, which you can find out more about on the website.

In the meantime, if there’s anything at all I can help with – whether it’s an idea you’d like to contribute to the Equality & Diversity Network;  a question you have about developing an inclusive curriculum; support with your session proposal; or anything else at all – please feel free to get in touch with me by sending me an e-mail ( or you can connect with me on LinkedIn.

  • We are now inviting proposals for the AUA Annual Conference and Exhibition 2023, will take place in-person from the evening of Sunday 2nd July to Tuesday 4th July at the world-leading University of Warwick.

    Our theme centres on the career pathways of professional staff and explores a continual self-reinvention to navigate a changing and challenging sector. 

    Find out more and submit your proposal!

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