Aziz Foundation launches report on Widening Participation and the Experience of British Muslim students

23 June 2021

Intersectionality of race and religion report cover

The Aziz Foundation is exceedingly pleased to announce the launch of a report authored by Dr Zain Sardar, Intersectionality of Race and Religion: Widening Participation and the Experience of British Muslim Students at the PGT Level. The paper is based on a keynote address delivered by the author at Goldsmiths University of London’s staff conference in October 2020.

The report represents the preliminary findings of the Foundation’s internal research, drawing upon data from a survey of scholarship candidates in 2020/1. It focuses on the lived experience of British Muslim students, their aspirations in pursuing postgraduate study, and the challenges they encounter on campus.

The recommendations presented in the publication indicate the ways in which universities can catalyse policy and institutional reform in order to reduce equality gaps, widen access and opportunities at the PGT level, and create a more inclusive learning environment for British Muslim students.

Dr Zain Sardar said:

“The findings of this report suggest that universities need to do a lot more to address the concerns of British Muslim students, and to understand the unique intersectionality of disadvantage they experience. The recommendations advanced offer a chance for forward looking institutions to mount well needed reform to combat institutionalised Islamophobia.”

The report was warmly welcomed by Professor Paul Wakeling, Head of the Department of Education at the University of York. He said:

“In this important report, Dr Zain Sardar draws on the testimonies of the many British Muslim postgraduates supported by the Aziz Foundation. He highlights a range of worrying issues about postgraduate participation for British Muslim graduates which warrant action by policymakers and universities. A lack of role models on the faculty, the absence of long-promised Shariah-compliant student loans and – most worryingly – discriminatory attitudes and actions all figure in making access to and participation in postgraduate degrees difficult for many British Muslims. Evidence is presented showing these difficulties are typically experienced intersectionally, alongside other challenges around ethnicity, gender and socio-economic status. Based on the accounts of the Foundation’s British Muslim scholars, a persuasive case is made for the importance of considering faith alongside students’ other characteristics when seeking to widen postgraduate participation. The report offers a set of considered recommendations for universities and regulatory bodies to make postgraduate education more inclusive and equal.”

Furthermore, Professor Peter Hopkins, Professor of Social Geography at Newcastle University, said:

“This important and timely report explores the challenges experienced by Muslim students pursuing postgraduate taught studies in the UK. Key issues are considered including concerns about racism, the demand for a clear definition of Islamophobia to be adopted, and the need for widening participation initiatives to consider transitions to and from postgraduate study alongside the intersections of race and religion.”

The paper is the first in a two-part series of reports, the second of which will reveal the full set of findings of the Foundation’s research and is due to be published shortly.

The Report can be accessed here.

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