University of Leicester awards diversity scholarships to students from underrepresented groups

Posted by er134 at Aug 11, 2016 10:26 AM |
School of Museum Studies celebrates 50th anniversary with initiatives to diversify the sector

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 11 August 2016

The University of Leicester has announced new initiatives to address the lack of diversity in the museum sector.

Last month, the UK’s Museums Association published a report about diversity in the museum sector which criticised the lack of action amongst museums and museum services to diversify their workforce and visitors.

The University of Leicester’s School of Museum Studies is showing its commitment to improving student recruitment diversity in a number of ways including the introduction of scholarships for applicants from underrepresented groups, a new course exploring equality and diversity in the museum sector and participation in a nationwide project designed to enhance student diversity led by the Equality Challenge Unit.

Founded in 1966, the School remains the only UK university department dedicated to the study of museums and galleries. At the very cutting edge of teaching and research in its field, the School is engaged in partnerships throughout the world, offers a range of postgraduate courses and hosts a large and diverse PhD research community.

As part of the School’s 50th anniversary celebrations, a range of scholarships aimed specifically at UK students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the UK museum workforce have been awarded. These include applicants with disabilities, people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities and people from lower income households and areas.

Each successful scholarship winner will receive a fee discount of £3,000 on Master’s or Postgraduate diploma programmes starting in autumn 2016. Further scholarships that are open to all UK applicants have also been awarded.

Katy Bunning, Programme Director for Museum Studies by Distance Learning at the University of Leicester, said: “As part of our broader efforts to foster diversity within the museum sector, we have introduced Diversity Scholarships (alongside a range of scholarships open to all applicants) to mark the 50th anniversary of the School of Museum Studies.

“We were thrilled with the response, receiving a large number of high quality applications from those who are underrepresented in the sector.  After careful consideration, we were delighted to inform our four outstanding winners who will begin their studies with us in the autumn.

“We are grateful to colleagues within the University, especially in the Equalities and Widening Participation teams, for their tremendous support, encouragement and advice in taking forward this new initiative.”

Scholarship winner Vanessa Peterson, said: “To be selected for a scholarship for a prestigious course just under a year after commencing my career in the heritage sector is incredibly exciting, as it will enable me to combine my interests in race, equality and underrepresented narratives in museums with forward-thinking academic research and support.

“Alongside starting my MA at Leicester in the autumn, I finished my 12 month traineeship three months ahead of schedule to start a new role at the Victoria & Albert Museum in the Word & Image curatorial department. My hope is that I will be able to put theory into practice every day in one of the country's leading museums.”

The department has also been selected, as part of a competitive process, to work with eleven other universities and with support from the national charity, the  Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), that seeks to diversify student recruitment, particularly in terms of encouraging more people from UK BAME communities to study at the University. This is one of a small number of pilot projects happening across the UK.

Leicester has also launched a new course, Socially Engaged Practice in Museums and Galleries, which will explore how museums can become socially purposeful organisations that have a positive impact on their communities and society.

One key strand of this course is exploring how museums adequately and appropriately represent people from a range of backgrounds and communities and also thinks about how museums can be active in the fight for equality and diversity.

Modules will focus on how museums may contribute to social justice and human rights, learning and education in the museum, and how research forms the basis of the work of the socially impactful museum. Uniquely, this course also offers students the chance to undertake a ‘Project in Practice’ – the chance to work with both academic tutors and leading museum professionals to be mentored through a real museum or gallery project relating to their studies.

Professor Richard Sandell, Professor of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester said: “A commitment to equality and diversity underpins all of the teaching and research that is carried out in the School.  We have a track record in collaborative research that investigates and develops solutions that support museums to tell more diverse stories and engage audiences in debating contemporary issues around equality and social justice.

“This year we are also developing new courses that equip students to make museums, galleries and heritage sites more inclusive and socially-engaged.  This values-driven approach to teaching and research has given renewed impetus to explore ways of ensuring a more diverse student body that, in turn can support museums to achieve greater diversity in the workforce and we are thrilled to be part of the Equality Challenge Unit’s exciting initiative to take this work forward across the UK.”

Chris Brill, at the ECU said: “The School has demonstrated a strong commitment and enthusiasm to tackle underrepresentation. They have put together a holistic team of academics, equality and diversity practitioners, widening participation, admissions and marketing staff who are working with graduates in identifying barriers, and importantly identifying and implementing practical measures to remove them.

“With the government setting a national goal to increase the number of BME students going to university by 20% by 2020, the work of the School will benefit not only the School, the Arts and Cultural Sector, and the University of Leicester, but also other higher education institutions seeking ideas on how to address underrepresentation in their own institutions.”

For more information about the School’s 50th anniversary visit:


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Professor Richard Sandell at:

You can watch, download and embed a video about the School of Museum Studies at Leicester at:

About Equality Challenge Unit (ECU)

Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) works to further and support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education across all four nations of the UK, and in colleges in Scotland. ECU is funded by the Scottish Funding Council, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and Universities UK, and through direct subscription from higher education institutions in England and Northern Ireland.

Details of the ECU’s project to attract and increase student diversity across the UK can be found at:

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