STEM Strategies

Student ambassadors and equality in higher education

Paperback / softback, 200 pages, 234 mm x 156 mm
15 Aug 2014
Trentham Books

Price: £25.99

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More skilled young people are urgently needed in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the UK. This book indicates how policy can be developed to encourage young people to consider STEM careers. It challenges widely held assumptions about how role models help raise aspirations and support progression to higher education, and asks whether role models really do encourage pupils, particularly girls, into STEM careers.

The book examines New Labour’s widening participation policy of encouraging university student ambassadors to work as role models with younger students and school pupils. The study of STEM ambassador schemes at two contrasting universities reveals how they are positioned by the surrounding discourses and activities. It examines the developing relationships between pupils and ambassadors, the learning that takes place, and the matching of ethnic, classed and gendered identities.

Gartland questions the assumption that university students are role models for school pupils simply by virtue of their gender or other identities and their status as students. But it also provides valuable insights into how encounters between pupils and university students can effectively support and encourage pupils in STEM subjects.

STEM Strategies is essential reading for policy makers and for school, FE and HE practitioners involved in outreach and interested in social justice. It is especially relevant to practitioners working with ambassadors in education, to people in industry working on STEM ambassador programmes, and those looking at diversity, access to HE and identity formation. The multidisciplinary approach makes a unique contribution to a developing body of evidence on how best to support the diversification of students in the STEM subject areas.

  • Clare Gartland

    Clare Gartland is Senior Lecturer in Education at University Campus Suffolk.

CONTENTS: Foreword by Miriam David; 1. Widening participation and the landscape of policy and research; 2. Widening participation and STEM: the cases of engineering and medicine; 3. Student ambassadors and mentoring; 4. Analysing policy and practice: a multi-stranded approach; 5. Meanings of marketing; 6. Learning practices and identities; 7. Social relationships and identities; 8. Assumptions, practices and potential; Appendix; References; Index

Student ambassadors have been a central part of recent initiatives to inspire more young people to take up careers in science, engineering and the other STEM subjects, but there is surprisingly little research into the dynamics of pupil ambassador relationships. This book is based on detailed research into a number of student ambassador schemes and comes up with some unexpected insights about the learning that occurs. It is essential reading for anyone interested in promoting STEM among young people.

Professor Matthew Harrison, Director, Engineering and Education at the Royal Academy of Engineering

This thoughtful and accessible book provides a much-needed critical approach to understanding the current, and potential, role of student ambassadors. A 'must read' for anyone working in the widening participation field.

Professor Louise Archer, Department of Education and Professional Studies, King's College London

This book makes an important contribution to debates about widening participation. By drawing on detailed empirical work in two higher education institutions, it presents fascinating evidence about the role of student ambassadors, and the impact they have on pupils’ learning identities.

Professor Rachel Brooks, Department of Sociology, University of Surrey

Clare Gartland's excellent contribution to research on widening participation in higher education illuminates the important dimension of student ambassador work. STEM Strategies provides both a macro-level analysis of policy and globalized discourses and a close-up, detailed study of the relationship between ambassadors and students. It is an important book for the development of widening participation strategy, policy and practice and for reaching a deeper understanding of equity issues in higher education.

Professor Penny Jane Burke, School of Education, University of Roehampton