Equality in context
The United nations defines equality as all people being equal under the law and entitled without and discrimination to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law (United Nations, no date). When we look more closely at the idea of equality there can be many dimensions such as race, gender, ethnicity, sexuality as well as social status. Essentially, when it comes to a university setting equality can be heavily influenced by the inclusive nature of the university environment and research regarding disabled, migrant, LGBTQ+, differing religious groups and students from less privileged social economical areas has not been as easy to come across (Leisyte, Deem and Tzanacou, 2021). A traditional idea of universities being for elites has now started to fade away with the emergence of a more inclusive environment which can be key in creating more equality and this is necessary for providing students and staff with a fair opportunity to succeed (Office for students, 2021). On the other hand, it may be argued that inclusion is still not appreciated within UK universities with it still being undervalued in a more organised manner. For example, it was found that 1 in 20 students had left their course in the years 2018 to 2019 due to racial discrimination and not feeling accepted (Inclusive companies, no date).
The dark side of unequal university opportunity
In the rich university environment Inclusivity serves as a vital aspect helping to aid every member of the university environment in feeling welcome and appreciated. Unfortunately, there are cases when the idea of inclusive nature tends to be disrupted, leading to some members of the university environment feeling excluded. An example of this can be international students studying in the UK who recently spoke out about feeling like just a number and a postgraduate student from Slovakia studying at Newcastle university stated she feels like “a hybrid” (Mitchell, 2023). When students begin to feel excluded the impact can travel throughout the organisation leading to a feeling of unequal opportunity and support. This is why Inclusivity is essential for students to gather differing perspectives and can enrich university life (Basiri, 2022).
Unity At Westminster
While studying at Westminster University a lack of inclusivity is never a question as this idea serves at the core of university values for Westminster. The university takes pride in its equality diversity, and inclusion policy allowing for everyone to feel safe and respected. my short time at the university it became clear to me how rich the inclusivity and diversity really was with many societies of differing types of cultural groups being represented and many groups who were previously underrepresented now respected such as the LGBTQ+ society and many cultural minority societies. As well as this you can join any society without feeling like you have to fit in even if you just want to learn more and have a great time with friends. In the heart of London, this university attracts many international cultures and allows for a rich cultural hotpot of humanity. One thing I particularly enjoyed about having this experience is that you always learn differing viewpoints according to how different cultures understand ideas relating back to one piece of information that may be discussed in a lecture or seminar. This has helped broaden my knowledge to see things from different cultural perspectives and increase my ability to be an open minded individual. To go even further the university takes pride in allocating events related specifically to the idea of Equality, diversity and inclusion which are integrated into university life. For example, previous events include Hanukkah celebrations in Westminster cafe, Black history year screenings at the regents street cinema or even a coming out and staying out conversational conference event helping to empower students.
Unity at UNI: Through a Sikh lens
Essentially, from a Sikh perspective equality is defined as all members regardless of gender, race, disability, class and wealth being equal and as a Sikh student the idea of equality has always been valued highly (Sikhnet, no date). Westminster university has provided me with a space to navigate my way through higher education while continuing my key values of embracing equality. Since joining the Sikh society in year 1 it has been a strong factor for me to feel represented and included to express myself at university. Seva is a key aspect of Sikhism whereby one can engage in selfless acts to help others (Sikhnet, no date) and the Sikh society allowed me to engage in this by events such as seva on campus or simply visiting the gurdwara to help the community. This is a personal experience of how the university of Westminster encourages expressing your culture and who your are making it a extremely inclusive and accepting university to embrace yourself. This dedication by Westminster university to make students feel more inclusive and celebrate diversity has made my time here more enriching and valuable.
As I reflect on the importance of equality and inclusion needed within a university environment it brings me great appreciation to know what good things can come from having an inclusive environment from a personal experience at Westminster and also from researching this. Research shows that students who feel a sense of belonging tend to be happier to attend and perform more successfully in academic assignments (UCL, 2020). The university of Westminster provides a space to support this and help students perform to their best both for an expression of their unique self and academic performance.
Basiri, M. (2022). How Diversity in university campuses can enrich students learning experiences. Fe news. Available from https://www.fenews.co.uk/exclusive/how-diversity-in-university-campuses-can-enrich-students-learning-experiences/ [Accessed 3 January 2024].
Inclusive companies (no date). UK Universities Have an Inclusion Problem & Change Isn’t Happening Fast Enough. Inclusive companies. Available from https://www.inclusivecompanies.co.uk/uk-universities-have-an-inclusion-problem-change-isnt-happening-fast-enough/ [Accessed 3 January 2024].
Leišytė, L., Deem, R. and Tzanakou, C., (2021). Inclusive universities in a globalized world. Social Inclusion, 9(3), 1-5. Available from https://doi.org/10.17645/si.v9i3.4632 [Accessed 3 January 2024].
Mitchell, N. (2023). International students feel exploited, commission is told. University world news. Available from https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=2023022307142623 [Accessed 3 January 2024].
Office for Students (2021). Fair equality of opportunity means a fair chance to succeed. Office for students. Available from https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/news-blog-and-events/blog/fair-equality-of-opportunity-means-a-fair-chance-to-succeed/ [Accessed 3 January 2024].
Sikhnet (no date). Sikhi. Sikhnet. Available from https://www.sikhnet.com/pages/who-are-sikhs-what-is-sikhism#:~:text=Sikhism%20is%20monotheistic%20and%20stresses,and%20emphasizes%20service%20to%20humanity [Accessed 3 January 2024].
UCL (2020). Research shows ‘a sense of belonging’ is important for pupils’ learning and behaviour. UCL. Available from https://www.ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news/2020/nov/research-shows-sense-belonging-important-pupils-learning-and-behaviour [Accessed 3 January 2024].
United Nations (no date). Article 5 – Equality and non-discrimination. United Nations. Available from https://www.un.org/development/desa/disabilities/convention-on-the-rights-of-persons-with-disabilities/article-5-equality-and-non-discrimination.html#:~:text=1.,equal%20benefit%20of%20the%20law [Accessed 3 January 2024].
University of Westminster (No date). Equality, diversity and inclusion. University of Westminster. Available from https://www.westminster.ac.uk/events/past-events/equality-diversity-and-inclusion [Accessed 3 January 2024].
Blog 2 :
Student Sustainability guide 101:
5 tips to succeed at becoming a more sustainable student at University Of Westminster
Becoming green matters
In a planet constantly changing and facing harsh environmentally challenges the need for responsible action is needed now more than ever. Everyone has a part to play for their actions all contributing to the carbon foot print destroying the world we call our home, Earth. Since 1884 our home has been slowly creeping up in global warming and with 2023 breaking records for being the warmest year globally on record (Ramirez, 2023). What kind of place will this home we call Earth become for our future generations? One of the most alarming factors is the traffic pollution, not only effecting climate change but also human health. Studies show that in Student institutions that are operating close to large traffic the student academic performance has been significantly lower than students who live in areas with cleaner air quality (Heissel et al, 2022). Statistics also show that over 30,000 deaths occur annually are due to poor air quality in the UK alone (Gov.UK, 2023). With poor air quality impacting academic performance and a significant number of deaths being caused due to poor efforts on sustainable practices its crucial that students act now to make changes as the up and coming generation. University students can have a huge impact on changes in sustainability if small actions are considered this can create much change on a larger scale. This blog will aim to unravel some essential tips I have picked up on while studying at University of Westminster to becoming a more sustainable student here which can apply here but also to students across the UK.
Tip 1: Purchase a reusable water/coffee cup
A recent further education study reveled that over 1 million disposable coffee cups are used within university coffee outlets yearly (Students organising for sustainability UK, no date). The coffee industry results in around 6.5 million trees being cut down every year and 16 billion paper cups wasted every (GreenMatch, 2023) year when you could just use on reusable cup. Consider the idea of using a reusable leak proof coffee cup in a small action that can help combat the unnecessary damage we are inflicting on our home planet. The University of Westminster also provides the opportunity to purchase reusable Eco friendly water bottles which I recommend for all students.
Tip 2: Go for cleaner travel
When in the capital E-Bikes can be a great way of travelling around the city. Not only are they great for the environment and helping lower air quality but they are also beneficial for your health as a student giving you a source of exercise (TFL, no date). The current air quality in Marylebone is rated moderate and it is advised that locals should close their windows (IQ air). This gives you a sense of the hazardos effects of pollution so perhaps instead of using ubers so frequently why not enjoy the ride on a bike. While I understand ubers can be more convenient especially during night life perhaps try and ditch them once in a while and try taking a walk.
Tip 3: Cut out that printing
Paper can be costly and it makes up for the majority of wastelands (Green Office, 2021). Research shows that students prefer paper print outs rather than digital software for notes due to its ability to highlight and easy accessibility (Johnston and Salaz, 2019). Instead of using paper prints get familiar with Google docs which offers easy access on all devices as well as great formatting techniques such as highlighting options.
Tip 4: Bye Bye Fast fashion, Hello sustainable style
Its time to say bye to fast fashion and hello to a more sustainable selection of fashion. I know its trendy, its super affordable but its damage on the Earth is now to much to disregard. Us gen Z say we want to be more sustainable than every other generation with 55% of us admitting to wanting more sustainability in the world yet we are the leading group in fast fashion purchases. Its time to focus our attention to more ethical garments and more ethical brands. Consider doing some research to find a Sustainable brand you may love.
Tip 5 Get in on the action: Cavendish living lab & Sustainability Events
While studying at the university of Westminster I became exposed to the Cavendish living lab which is a great place to become involved in for direct changes in projects linking to sustainability. This is a small space whereby fresh greens and vegetables can be grown while giving all students the chance to create solutions for sustainability (University of Westminster, no date). Food waste from the university campus is used to grow wholesome veggies which have previously been donated to food banks in London (University of Westminster, no date). Anyone who is interested in sustainability and helping the planet thrive is welcome to visit and help out at the lab. At the university I have also had the chance to join many events regarding sustainability and there is always a chance to get in on the action so make sure to join societies and look out for any events.
a sustainable future
Becoming more sustainable as a young student isn’t just a trend but its about embracing good stewardship of our planet and home. The effects of choosing sustainable outcomes can be detrimental to ourselves as well as our future children especially in academic circumstances. I hope that these tips that I gathered during my time at the university of Westminster have been insightful and light a spark within you to embrace a healthier world for all of us, Together.
Gov.UK (2023). 11 things to know about the Health Effects of Climate Change report. Gov.UK. Available from https://ukhsa.blog.gov.uk/2023/12/11/11-things-to-know-about-the-health-effects-of-climate-change-report/ [Accessed 4 January 2024].
UK health security agency. Health Effects of Climate Change (HECC) in the UK: 2023 report. Gov.UK. Available from https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/media/6570a68b7469300012488948/HECC-report-2023-chapter-4-outdoor-air-quality.pdf [Accessed 4 January 2024].
Marcus, R. (no date). 5 reasons you should switch to reusable coffee cup. Which. Available from https://www.which.co.uk/news/article/five-reasons-why-you-should-switch-to-a-reusable-coffee-cup-atVvY4B5Mhmz [Accessed 4 January 2024].
Students organising for sustainability UK. Coffee cups on campus. Students organising for sustainability. Available from https://www.sos-uk.org/research/coffee-cups-on-campus#:~:text=Two%20respondents%20report%20that%20over,how%20many%20cups%20were%20used. [Accessed 4 January 2024].
Amazon. Joseph Joseph Sipp Travel mug, Hygienic, Leakproof reusable mug, Coffee & Tea Cup with Lid – 340 ml (12 fl. oz) – Green. Amazon. Available from https://www.amazon.co.uk/Joseph-81122-Sipp-Travel-mug/dp/B0986B7MBL/ref=asc_df_B0986B7MBL/?tag=googshopuk-21&linkCode=df0&hvadid=534900483108&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=4915057364953295972&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1006886&hvtargid=pla-1432477703227&mcid=89d31bdb20203f0381cd557659370259&th=1 [Accessed 4 January 2024].
TFL (no date). Using our e-bikes. TFL. Available from https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/cycling/santander-cycles/using-our-e-bikes [Accessed 4 January 2024].
Herron, A. (2023). The intention gap: when buying and beliefs don’t match. FashionDive. Available from https://www.fashiondive.com/news/sustainable-fashion-consumer-demographics-gen-z/650864/#:~:text=About%2054%25%20of%20Gen%20Z,leading%20consumers%20of%20fast%20fashion.b [Accessed 4 January 2024].
Green Office. (2021). The Impact of Printing on the Environment. Greenoffice. Available from https://greenoffice.co.za/the-impact-of-printing-on-the-environment/ [Accessed 4 January 2024].
Johnston, N. and Salaz, A.M. (2019). Exploring the reasons why university students prefer print over digital texts: An Australian perspective. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 68(2),126-145. Available from https://doi.org/10.1080/24750158.2019.1587858 [Accessed 4 January 2024].
University of Westminster (No date). Cavendish Living Lab project donates vegetables grown on University campus to Euston Food Bank. University of Westminster. Available from https://www.westminster.ac.uk/news/cavendish-living-lab-project-donates-vegetables-grown-on-university-campus-to-euston-food-bank [Accessed 4 January 2024].