Equality and diversity

At the School of Museum Studies we take our commitment to equality and diversity seriously. We believe that a strong and diverse community brings with it more new and creative ways of thinking that helps our research and teaching community to thrive.

One of the core values of the school is to actively foster an inclusive environment in which people from diverse backgrounds and with diverse needs can thrive and achieve their potential. A commitment to diversity and accessibility for all is threaded throughout our curricula, our approach to teaching and research and our daily working practice.

The School holds an Athena Swan Bronze Award for its commitment to gender equality and is actively pursuing a Silver Award. We are working in partnership with the Equality Challenge Unit on a national pilot to increase the number of UK students we recruit from Black and  Minority Ethnic backgrounds.

The School's work relating to equality and diversity is the shared responsibility of staff across the department, which also has an active Diversity and Equality working group with specific project teams that lead on different initiatives. The Diversity and Equality working group also provides twice yearly all-staff diversity and equality training for the School.

We pursue equality and diversity in the following areas:


Equality and diversity in student recruitment

The School is committed to working proactively to recruit students from a diverse range of backgrounds. In 2016, the School recently launched its Masters programmes' Diversity Scholarships, which were targeted at UK applicants from underrepresented backgrounds, including people from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, people with disabilities and people from lower socio-economic groups. We made four awards to students in Autumn 2016 and a further four awards have recently been made for Autumn 2017. We are currently engaged in a national pilot in partnership with the Equality Challenge Unit to increase the number of UK masters students it recruits from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

Equality and diversity in learning

We are committed to providing the best possible learning experience to students. We offer an inclusive and accessible learning environment, including a recently refurbished, accessible building, which includes gender neutral toilet facilities. We work with the University's AccessAbility Centre to ensure that students with particular needs receive the support they require to undertake their studies with us.

We recognise that accessibility is a design issue, and we recently led on a project with the AccessAbility Centre to enhance staff skills in accessible and inclusive curriculum design across the University.  We ensure that our teaching environments and learning materials are accessible and we provide diverse teaching approaches and modes of assessments that are appropriate to students with a range of different learning styles and needs.

We ask all of our campus-based students to participate in sessions about equality and diversity in the early stages of their time with us to support their understanding of accessibility and equalities issues and promote an inclusive learning environment.

Our PhD students have a wellness session as part of their induction programme and also undertake the University’s staff online equalities training. They have a peer-to-peer mentoring programme and a PhD representative on the School’s Diversity and Equality working group.

Equality and diversity in our curriculum

Our teaching explores the wide range of equality and diversity issues that the museums, galleries and broader arts and heritage sectors face. We look at how these sectors respond to the diverse needs of different communities in all areas of their work from exhibiting-making to audience engagement and human resources.

Examples of equalities-related teaching session include lectures, seminars and workshops on queer and feminist curating, representing disability, issues of class and museum participation, the legacies of colonialism and contemporary art that challenges racial and ethnic prejudice.

Our new flexible-learning course, Socially Engaged Practice in Museums and Galleries particularly focuses on developing socially purposeful museum practice through foregrounding equality, diversity and inclusion. Specific teaching sessions include, for example, explorations of how museums can be fully inclusive, highlighting, for example, the needs of blind, partially-sighted and D/deaf people – sessions that were created in partnership with sector-facing organisations StageText and VocalEyes. The course also examines how museums can work co-productively with traditionally excluded communities to achieve fair representation in museum and gallery collections and exhibitions.

We strive to include accessibility and inclusion issues in our Summer Schools for distance learning provision. 2017’s Summer School, for example, included sessions on accessibility delivered in partnership with the National Trust’s Head of Accessibility as well as an opportunity for students to participate in the Jodi Awards for Accessible Digital Culture.

The department also runs a free, publicly accessible 'Massive Open Online Course' (MOOC) in partnership with FutureLearn and National Museums Liverpool, making the departments teaching and research available to everyone. The course highlights a number of key equality-related themes including issues of audience engagement and development with under-represented groups as well as looking at how museums can become involved in issues of social justice and human rights. Examples include material relating to slavery and contemporary racism, representation of LGBTQ people in museums and positive representation of diversity and immigration. It also explores issues of health and wellbeing which disproportionately affect older and disabled people. The MOOC was designed with access, equality and representation in mind, with steps taken to ensure that the communities represented and the educators appearing were as diverse as possible.

By emphasising the dynamic relationship between museums and society and the significant role museums can play in advancing equality and diversity, we explore barriers and issues faced by marginalised communities in accessing museums, galleries heritage and the arts.

Equality and diversity in research

The School promotes equality and diversity amongst its own researchers as well as undertaking significant research relating to diversity and equality issues.

The School operates a system of research mentoring in order to support colleagues from all backgrounds to reach their full potential. In doing so we work to counter the context of UK research funding and publications which sees, for example, fewer women applying for grants, applying for large research grants, and seeking publicity for their work by actively advocating for its for review in the media. The School seeks to support all its Research Assistants and Associates to achieve career advancement in keeping with the Concordat to support the Career Development of Researchers.

Many of the staff who carry out research in the School and in our Research Centre for Museums and Galleries are exploring themes which engage directly with equality and diversity issues. Much of the research that comes out of Leicester has been carried out to inform museum, gallery and heritage thinking and practice and to support museums to become more accessible for all, inclusive in the stories they tell and more explicitly engaged in social, political and environmental issues. Below are some selected examples:

Janet Marstine’s latest book, Critical Practice: Artists, museums, ethics (2017) discusses critical practice within the framework of peace and reconciliation studies. Marstine shows how artists’ interventions can redress exclusions, inequalities and relational frictions between museums and their publics.

Richard Sandell’s latest publication, Museums, Moralities and Human Rights (2017), makes the case for an understanding of museum work as human rights work.  Through a series of richly-drawn cases and a focus on same-sex love and desire and gender diversity, Richard Sandell examines the ways in which museums are implicated in the ongoing struggle for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex human rights.  Museums, Moralities and Human Rights offers new insights by bringing together, for the first time, the perspectives and experiences not only of those who work in, govern, fund and visit museums but also those of rights activists and campaigners who, at key moments in their struggle, have turned their attention to museums to advance their cause.

Lisanne Gibson’s current research focus, a project entitle ‘Understanding Everyday Participation’, explores attitudes to cultural participation and calls for a rethink on how we view and understand cultural participation in people’s everyday lives.

Viv Golding has a long track record of publications that explore issues of feminist pedagogy and issues of identity, race and power in the museum, including her 2012 monograph ‘Learning at the Museum Frontiers’.

Our Research Centre for Museums and Galleries has undertaken a large number of equalities-related projects in partnership with the museum sector. Recently these have included Exceptional and Extraorinary, a project working with artists to explore our attitudes to difference and how people with disabilities can be better represented in museums; Encountering the Unexpected, which explores how museums can work with older people; and is currently working with the National Trust on Prejudice and Pride, a project exploring how National Trust properties can be more representative of LGBTI lives

One of the key research strands of CRIA, a new School network of scholars that researches art and its institutions, concerns productive strategies for art institutions to curate difficult issues

Our PhD community includes students from all over the world. Through campus-based and distance-learning their research draws on a vast and diverse range of disciplines, traditions and methods to offer distinct insights into equality and diversity-related subjects. Current and past PhD students of the School have advanced and informed thinking around museums and representation, ethics, human rights, social justice, accessibility and engagement. Together, students and staff form an inclusive and supportive research community through peer-to-peer mentoring, lunch-time seminars and informal gathering.

We are an interdisciplinary team with equalities-related expertise in areas from sociology to ethics to African-American studies and we collaborate with research partners who are committed to challenging prejudice wherever and whenever it exists.

Students draw on our texts to recognise and develop strategies and tactics to actively address discrimination in museums and in the wider world.

A workforce committed to equality and diversity

Our workforce is committed to equality and diversity in all it does. All members of staff undertake equality and diversity training and contribute to projects across the department that focus on equality and diversity, including those outlined on this page. We ensure broad representation from staff, students and associates in the running of the School and, in particular, on our diversity and equality working group, which advises on equalities issues and oversees the implementation of our Gender Equality Mark action plan and the School’s Athena Swan submission.

All of our staff our actively encourage to take part in University-wide equalities work and participate in relevant equalities fora including the BAME Staff Equality Forum, Disability Staff Equality Forum, LGBT(Plus) Staff Equality Forum and Women's Forum.

We seek to foster a healthy, friendly, collegial working environment in which we take the time to talk and listen to one another (when talking about work, of course, but also during our weekly Wednesday Fika!). We have staff not only based here in the School building, but also a large team of remote-working associate tutors. We are working hard to ensure that they are also integrated into the life of the School and have a voice in our meetings and decision-making processes.

Find out more about the University of Leicester's work in the field of equality and diversity including the institutional Athena Swan work, our participation in the UN's HeForShe campaign, our work as a Stonewall Diversity Champion and widening participation work.

You can find out more about the University's equality and diversity work here.

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Museum Studies
University of Leicester
Museum Studies Building
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Leicester LE1 7RF

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3963


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