In their own words. Factors impacting on the higher education (HE) experiences of black and minority ethnic (BME) students in Ireland
Ní Dhuinn, Meadhbh
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This study examines the experiences of black and minority ethnic (BME) groups in Irish higher education (HE). While the HE and wider experiences of this group are the focus of research and policy internationally, this study contributes to a lack of research in the area in Ireland, particularly in its focus on BME students other than international students, and in the context of the exclusion of this group in the Higher Education Authority (HEA) National Access Plan targets for Widening Participation (WP) to Irish HE. As an in-depth qualitative study situated between the constructivist and transformative paradigms and conducted through the lenses of Critical Race Theory (CRT), postcolonialism and culturally responsive research methodologies, this study sought to generate testimonio, the voiced stories of marginalised and minoritised groups. 25 semi-unstructured interviews were conducted with participants from a range of Irish Higher Education Institutes (HEIs), both Universities and Institutes of Technology (ITs), throughout Ireland, with experience at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The findings centred on three areas; participants’ schooling experiences, their aspirations and barriers in progression to HE; and their social and academic experiences in HE. Based on the findings, there is evidence to suggest that the participants were exposed to and battled through a discriminatory (neo)colonial Irish schooling and wider education system. Challenges experienced at both school and HE level related to self-identity, peer relationships and social experiences, academic expectations, relationships and experiences with teachers, and a range of system-related barriers. Recommendations are made for policy, practice and future research, including the provision of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) for teachers and HE staff to promote successful intercultural and decolonised teaching and learning environments, integration of bi/multilingual identity, curricular reform, diversifying the teaching population, targeting BME groups in national policy, and privileging the voice of BME groups in research.
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