Taking pride in our diverse community

09 June 2021
Posted by Nikki Hall, Chief People and Transformation Officer at Study Group

Taking pride in our diverse community

June 1 marks the beginning of LGBTQ+ Pride Month around the world - an annual reminder of the importance of celebrating inclusion and of an ongoing need to challenge discrimination. Yet beyond parades and hashtags, a commitment to and respect for diversity is an ongoing effort, which demands a year round awareness of our need to do better.

As a global organisation focused on supporting international students, establishing a culture that respects diversity is fundamental to our work as educators. This isn’t something we take for granted. From the moment our communities come together, we need to set a standard of respect for one another and for the community, society and the legal frameworks in which we operate.

But this goes far beyond a minimum expectation. One of the most joyous qualities to be found in each of our study centres across the world is their diversity. In international education, variety truly is the spice of life and an important part of how we learn. Difference is welcome. The shared aim of our teachers and professional colleague is to build communities in which all can thrive, to create a sense of belonging in which all can achieve their potential.

In fact, we believe this very diversity is an asset. As our CEO Emma Lancaster says:

“Study Group believes diversity is a strength and that diverse communities and teams achieve more and learn new and important things from one another.

"We value everyone’s voice. We appreciate different perspectives because we know great minds don’t all think alike.

"By actively celebrating the strengths of our diverse community, we are committed to enabling all to succeed and grow.”

Building respect and understanding in our student communities

Our student communities come from across the world and are a drawn from different races and ethnicities, religions and cultural backgrounds. For some young people who travel to be with us, however, studying abroad may be the first time they really experience living and studying alongside someone from a different country, tradition or gender.

Naturally at times this can present challenges. How does it feel to find yourself in a classroom with someone from a country that may have been in conflict with your own, or from a completely different religious or cultural background? If we weren’t careful, stereotypes could become barriers or sources of tension.

Instead, as an important part of our work to support students making a positive transition to university study, we work hard to create communities which are respectful of individuals and their many different perspectives on the world.

We actively challenge prejudice and intolerance through the positive promotion of a culture of support in which all are valued regardless of nationality, race, culture, religion, gender or sexuality. We also support neurodiversity and students of different abilities, creating an inclusive environment for education and friendship.

In the process, students find their horizons broadened. They learn to listen to the ideas and experiences of others. Our international community marks cultural festivals and understands and respects religious observance. Listening respectfully and sharing diverse perspectives, it emerges, is itself an education.

Challenging prejudice

Of course, it isn’t just our students who need to confront prejudice; there is always room for us all to learn and improve. This is why Study Group has also taken seriously the challenge of recognising our own biases and to renewing our commitment to being a global employer deeply committed to diversity and inclusion.

In one sense, the fact that our teams are found across so many countries and cultural backgrounds means we are always reminded that professional strengths come in many forms. But we have sought this year to go beyond that - to ensure all our staff take part in diversity and inclusion workshops and by supporting the establishment of staff groups empowering women or embracing neurodiversity. Our hope is that these will not only provide places of shared identity but that they will guide the wider organisation in confronting barriers we may have missed.

Sometimes there is also the need to reinforce a line. We take a zero-tolerance approach to harassment and anyone who experiences harassment on the grounds of their personal characteristics is encouraged to raise concerns, which will be considered carefully and action taken to address any breaches of expected standards.

Our Study Group motto is that we are committed to building “a better world through education”. PRIDE is a reminder that prejudice can be overcome and that change is possible. In 2019, our team based in Brighton supported the annual Brighton Pride celebrations and money raised was donated to a LGBTQ+ charity. Singers, including our staff, raised the roof for equality and the freedom to be accepted for who you are. It’s our commitment to put this spirit at the heart of our work as educators of students from across the world, all year round.

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