Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showman and Boater students: new initiative seeks to boost numbers

Buckinghamshire New University teams up with GTRSB community on new pledge to increase representation

Students from the Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showman and Boater are to receive more support from UK universities thanks to a new initiative launched yesterday (20 January) by Buckinghamshire New University.

The GTRSB into Higher Education Pledge will see higher education institutions pledge to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment for GTRSB students, and carry out more outreach and engagement work with local GTRSB communities.

It is a collaboration between Buckinghamshire New University, the GTRSB community, NGOs (Friends, Families and Travellers; ACERT; and the Traveller Movement), academics, and educational policy specialists who came together at a House of Lords roundtable in September 2019 to hear about the challenges facing GTRSB students in higher education.

Institutions are asked to self-report progress against four core commitments: data collection; organisational and institutional culture; outreach; and inclusion, celebration and commemoration.

The Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showpeople and Boater communities stand out as continuing to experience truly appalling disadvantage – Prof Nick Braisby, Buckinghamshire New University

Professor Nick Braisby, vice-chancellor of Buckinghamshire New University, said:

“Despite the many successes of universities in tackling inequalities and improving students’ life chances through higher education, the Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Showpeople and Boater communities stand out as continuing to experience truly appalling disadvantage. We’re therefore incredibly proud to be involved in the Pledge movement from the very start and will work together with these communities and other universities to increase numbers and broaden some of the excellent practice already in place.”

The Pledge has been backed by the Office for Students, whose director for fair access and participation, Chris Millward, said: “Gypsy, Traveller, Roma, Show people and Boater students are severely underrepresented in higher education, which is why improving our collective understanding of the cultural and financial barriers faced by this group is so important. A student’s potential to thrive in higher education should never be limited by ethnicity or background.

Several universities have joined Buckinghamshire New University in signing up to the GTRSB into Higher Education Pledge so far, including Winchester, Strathclyde, Sunderland and Hull, with more pledging to do so at the launch event.

Wendy Price, head of widening access and participation at the University of Sunderland, said: “I’m delighted that we will be one of the first universities nationally to commit to the GTRSB into Higher Education Pledge.

“We have a deep-rooted commitment to widening participation and ensuring fair access for all students, whatever their background or personal circumstances.”

You might also like: Interview: Graeme Atherton, widening participation champion, head of AccessHE and director of NEON

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