The University of Leicester's School of Museum Studies. Image © Martine Hamilton Knight

Diversity scholarships launched for museum studies students

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 16.08.2016
University of Leicester tackles lack of diversity in museum sector
Prospective museum studies students from under-represented groups across the UK will have a chance to win scholarships to the University of Leicester’s School of Museum Studies, which has launched a series of diversity initiatives to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The diversity scholarships will be available to people from black and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds, people with disabilities and those from lower income households and areas.

Starting this autumn, each scholarship winner will receive a £3,000 discount on a master’s or postgraduate diploma programme. The four recipients of this year’s scholarships have already been notified.

Other measures announced by the department to tackle the sector's lack of diversity include the launch of a new course exploring equality and diversity in museums, and participation in a nationwide project led by the Equality Challenge unit designed to enhance student recruitment diversity.

The new course, Socially Engaged Practice in Museums and Galleries, will explore how museums can become “socially purposeful organisations that have a positive impact on their communities and society”.

The course explores how the sector can contribute to social justice and human rights, with key strands looking at how museums can represent people from a range of backgrounds and communities, and how they can be active in the fight for equality and diversity.

Meanwhile the pilot initiative led by the Equality Challenge Unit will see the department working with 11 other universities to diversify student recruitment, with a particular focus on encouraging more people from BAME communities to enrol.

In a statement, the School of Museum Studies highlighted the findings of last month’s report by the Museums Association (MA), which laid bare deep-rooted problems with diversity and discrimination in the sector, showing how museums were failing to recruit or retain staff from under-represented backgrounds. The department said the initiatives would demonstrate “its commitment to improving student recruitment diversity”.

“A commitment to equality and diversity underpins all of the teaching and research that is carried out in the school," said the university's professor of museum studies, Richard Sandell.
“This values-driven approach to teaching and research has given renewed impetus to explore ways of ensuring a more diverse student body that, in turn can support museums to achieve greater diversity in the workforce.”

The MA’s director Sharon Heal welcomed the announcement. “It’s great that the University of Leicester is tackling the lack of diversity by giving opportunities to students from under-represented groups in the sector through these new scholarships,” she said.

“Our recent report highlighted the lack of progress in this area and I hope that these scholarships and the next phase of the MA’s Transformers programme, which will include a diversity strand, will go some way to addressing this.

“We are also keenly interested in equality, diversity and inclusion and therefore delighted that the new course in socially engaged practice has been launched.”


Amended to clarify that the diversity scholarships are available to prospective students across the UK.


Valuing Diversity: The Case for Inclusive Museums (PDF)