London Metropolitan University Research Institutes

Self-segregating social groups in a super-diverse university

Author(s) White, R. & Jerome, L.  
Publisher London: CiCe  
Year 2013  
Editor P. Cunningham (ed.) Identities and Citizenship Education: Controversy, crisis and challenges  
Age group -  
London Metropolitan University prides itself on the diversity of its student population. However, as Hollingworth and Mansaray (2102) have indicated, the social mix of an institution is not necessarily reflected in the degree of social mixing that occurs within the institution. In their case study of a mixed secondary school in England, they note how social spaces become segregated through the choices students make about where to ‘hang out’ and with whom. This paper explores the extent of social mixing in the 3 year undergraduate Early Years Teaching programme at London Metropolitan University by examining how the students group themselves together within their teaching classes. Our observations indicate that students most frequently choose to organise themselves in groups where members share age / ethnicity / religion. The research explores the extent to which the students are conscious of this self-selection, and sets out to gain some insight into the reasons they have for these patterns. We also explore the extent to which the students feel these patterns affect their ability to work with, and identify with, others in the teaching class, outside of their self-selected groups. Finally we also investigate the strategies these student teachers have used in their own teaching practice in schools and children’s centres. In particular we focus on the extent to which they allow children to self-select groups or make decisions about grouping themselves and whether when they do make decisions about groups, this is done explicitly to promote social mixing within their class. The paper ends with a reflection on the extent to which the socially diverse classes at the university result in social integration or merely allow for social segregation to be reproduced within shared spaces. Keywords: Deracialised discourse, social grouping, identity, community cohesion, colour-blindness

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