article written by Dr. Anthony Thorpe, senior lecturer in leadership and management at the University of Roehampton, London and coordinator of EAPRIL Cloud 8 ‘Diversity & Equality in Different Contexts’
Much was promised about how things would change for the better in a ‘post-pandemic’ world. Yet those promises appear unfulfilled as many European governments speak of having entered a situation of ‘living with the virus’ so life can continue as ‘normal’.
The Covid-19 era has created ‘winners and losers’ for those in further and higher vocational education, as with other sectors of education. The hope that it would be those studying and working in education who would be in the winner categories has, as yet, not come to fruition.
The past few years show that actions can be taken quickly by senior leaders in educational institutions and systems, such as the move to on-line learning. There were gains for students and staff members with more working from home and an increased flexibility with working arrangements. Those with disabilities/ differences in further and higher education sometimes reported easier access to their lectures and lecturers in the online mode as long travel times were dispensed with. The chat function enabled some students and staff members to raise questions and make comments in lectures and faculty meetings in a way they never felt able to do in face to face settings.
Whilst, on the one hand, actions to promote diversity and equality can be taken quickly and be beneficial, the extent to which many of these gains were largely accidental remains open to debate. To what extent have they been misrepresented as a conscious action to engender greater equity?
Accidental gains are also fragile. Questions remain as to whether these benefits will be taken into consideration when deciding what needs to happen next or else abandoned with ‘a return to normal’.
On the other hand, much was lost for students and staff members in accessing what they needed and threats to their well-being increased. New understandings of unequal access to online learning and digital poverty were identified and articulated. Little attention was given to the disruption to vocational education with its need for learning through practice and placements. Nor did the efforts of lecturers gain much attention as they struggled to maintain placement opportunities and take difficult decisions about who could access these.Cloud 8 ‘Diversity & Equality in Different Contexts’ aims to promote studies and projects related to workforce equality and diversity in education and corporations offering an arena for practitioners and researchers in all types of educational organizations and corporate learning and development settings [ http://www.eapril.org/Cloud-8 ].