Author: Liam Greenslade, , Project Officer – Canterbury Christ Church University

Founded in 1962 as a Church of England teacher training college with 70 students, Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) now has a student body of over 17,000 spread across three campuses in Kent and Medway. Despite this expansion the University remains true to its origins in the Anglican Communion and its core values. The ethic of service to the public good which inspired its foundation continues to inform and shape the University’s vision and strategy of providing accessibility to Higher Education for some of the region’s most disadvantaged communities.

As an institution CCCU has committed itself to the provision of an inclusive education which provides equal opportunities to those who have the potential to reach higher education, but may not consider higher education to be an option that is available to them. The University has strong partnership links with local schools (over 1000 formal partnerships) to enhance progression to higher education especially for those from lower socio-economic groups and first generation higher education entrants.

This commitment to accessibility and diversity is reflected directly in the student body. In 2013/14 98% of young, full-time undergraduate entrants came from state schools or colleges. 62% of the student body were drawn from POLAR quintiles 1 and 2, and 85% of students were 1st generation entrants to higher education.  The University also has a high proportion of mature students (33%) and a growing number of BME students (18%). The ratio of female to male students is also high with women making up nearly two thirds of undergraduates.

With such a mix, it is inevitable that issues relating to disadvantage and exclusion will impinge on the relative success of some groups of students. Recent data from HESA indicates that both levels off attainment and retention vary noticeably for certain groups of students studying at CCCU. It is in this context that the relevance and importance of the Changing Mindsets project becomes apparent.

Carole Dweck’s (2006) work on growth and fixed mindsets shows us that sometimes the biggest obstacle to academic success is not our lack of intellectual or academic abilities but rather the way we think about them and then act upon those beliefs. When this is added to the problems that many students face overcoming implicit bias and the consequences of stereotype threat, which can undermine their performance and well-being while at university, the need for an intervention like Changing Mindsets is both timely and relevant in the current context of higher education in general and at CCCU in particular.

The Changing Mindset intervention with its emphasis on intellectual development and academic success through self- and socially-aware insight and training fits well with the wider academic ethos of CCCU. It offers students and lecturers the opportunity to think and reflect on their ideas about intelligence, academic endeavour and the obstacles which can inhibit growth and act as a barrier to success in both learning and teaching. Moreover, given the particular mix of the student body at CCCU, with its high proportion of students from low participation areas, mature students, and 1st generation university entrants, it offers the possibility that the quality of their university experience can be marked by confidence and success rather than stress and disappointment.

References

Dweck C (2006) Mindset: The new psychology of success New York: Random House.

Disclaimer: the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog post belong solely to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the values of the University of Portsmouth or the extended Partnership.

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