Whiteness, privilege continuum and University 3.0: Contemplating EDI, its language and existing associated structural disadvantages 

Carola Boehm, Staffordshire University; Thushari Welikala, St George’s University of London; Arinola Adefila, Staffordshire University

This roundtable will invite exploration of how we can make a theoretically and conceptually underpinned case for a different approach to EDI interventions (equality, diversity and inclusion) in the HE research space, focusing on addressing institutional, systemic unconscious biases and supporting an affirmative approach to more socially and epistemological just knowledge production. The challenge here lies predominantly in mainstream EDI interventions being generally built around conceptual models related to high individualism, which is predominantly encultured in the global north (See Marginson, 2020; Boehm, 2022). Thus, they have a tendency to work within a ‘deficit mode’ with a focus on groups or individuals who ‘need to be supported’ instead of focusing on the institutions and consequently adapting institutional processes and ‘ways of working’ to support more equitable and inclusive cultures built into institutional processes. This has a distorting effect on knowledge production, and as part of this roundtable, we will revisit our insights from recent discourses and invite conference members to help us interrogate and debate some systemic biases inherent in our knowledge production systems as part of our HE institutions. Some of the aspects we might cover are   

  • Language is not neutral. 
  • Our standards, processes and practices are not neutral. 
  • Our main research systems in UK universities were built, developed, and authored still mostly by white men (and only a few white women, and almost no black women) at a time when interdisciplinarity was not valued as highly as we do now. 
  • The awareness of how a colonial past has influenced today’s institutions is only emerging. 
  • The phenomenon of “Privilege” works on a continuum.

And finally, we need to focus on the structural disadvantages, not individual deficits.