Where are we now?
In the UK approximately 87.2% of the population identify as White and 12.9% identify as BME, with approximately a roughly even split between m/f genders. In Physics and Materials Science however this is not the proportion that we see entering Undergraduate level degree programs. In the 2012 IOP report on Physics Students in UK Higher Education Institutions it was reported that in the year 2009/10 3975 students entered a full-time physics degree programme, ~21% were female and 10.5% of students were from BAME backgrounds. This is not in-line with UK population demographics. Even though this data is from a decade ago, the picture has not improved significantly in that time. There is a number of efforts being made to increase the women and BME representation in Physics degree programmes, especially for black minorities who are particularly under-represented in the field.
The problems faced at UG level are heighted at Postgraduate level (leaky-pipeline) and improving gender and ethnic representation at PG level becomes more challenging when the number of graduates is already imbalanced. The field of Fusion is no exception to this, and we (Fusion CDT) are currently developing and deploying strategies to attract and retain students from all genders and ethnicities. We understand how important diversity and inclusivity is in increasing creativity and problem solving skills across the field, and training a diverse generation of Fusion Scientists and Engineers is key to achieving this.
The cohort structure of the CDT model provides an opportunity to ensure that all students are considered on their individual merits and allows us to monitor for and reduce any unconscious bias that may occur.
How do we plan to change things?
- Set up an ED&I working group to develop and implement a strategy.
- Improving gender and BAME representation on the management board, external advisory board and the CDT cohort.
- Improving gender and BAME representation of Frontiers Workshop speakers.
- Re-examining entry criteria for PhD students, given institutional barriers faced by black students and the lower proportion of women taking enhanced degree options compared to men.
- Ensuring a fair and unbiased application, shortlisting and interview process.
- Increasing access and visibility of part-time or flexible study.
- Embedding EDI workshops into the taught programme, i.e. unconscious bias training, imposter syndrome workshops, etc.
- Increased outreach and engagement at the undergraduate level to potential applicants who may not have heard of the Fusion CDT or considered doing a PhD.
- Recognise the inequities that exist, identify these inequities and examine how they can be counteracted.
- Set clear guidelines and recommendations on what makes a community inclusive and how to respond to exclusive behaviour in the student handbook.
- Have discussions with companies, national laboratories, professional bodies (IOP, IET,IOM) and Universities on their policies and strategies to improve representation at every level.