Diversity – engagement and learning


‘Diversity’ is the word used to describe individuality, including at a group/collective level: it signifies different communities, sub-population groups, ethnicities, traditions, religions [‘conservative,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘orthodox,’ ‘non-orthodox,’ ‘esoteric,’ ‘exoteric,’ ‘dogmatic,’ etc.], both religious and non-religious faiths and belief systems, minorities such as sexual orientation and gender minorities (globally known as ‘LGB’ [meaning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual], and ‘T’ [for Trans and Non-Binary]), nationalities, and more. 

In the UK respect for ‘Diversity’ and ‘Diverse Communities’ is embedded in law under the Equality Act 2010 and human rights respecting parliamentary legislation, and in justice system ‘case law.’  All in the UK or come to live and study in the UK, are required to respect and comply with these legal requirements which are designed to respect diverse communities and the sanctity of freedom of expression and lifestyle of minority communities, gender equality, and much more, with the exception of those holding views and undertaking forms of behaviour that embrace intolerance, anti-democratic viewpoints, and/or utilise or accept intimidation, oppression, violence, and even terrorism to support intolerant views and values. 

Consequently ‘diversity’ is matched to the concept of ‘tolerance,’ which in turn is fundamental to the traditional Western concepts of parliamentary democracy, universal suffrage, and human rights. 

University international students and language college communities by any definition must rank alongside cosmopolitan inner-city locations and specific quarters of large cities world-wide, as centres of different diverse communities living and studying alongside each other in an academic study setting. 

The international study experience has beyond direct academic activity its greatest benefit and attraction that of learning about other peoples and cultures, including the host country’s culture with its exceptional modern history and values where diversity and diverse communities are concerned. 

‘Freshers Fairs’ and university students’ unions and their societies information are the main starting points for learning about or connecting with groups and societies that are diversity focused.

However, in academic study settings such as classrooms and lecture theatres, as well as accommodation, and student union cafes and bars, international students may come to make new friends from diverse communities, or experience learning from real life that broadens their perspectives on diversity.  And in turn they will find that they share their own cultures, beliefs, traditions, diversity lived experiences confronting preconceptions and developing global perspectives that will serve them and those they have connected with, valuably for the rest of their lives and in their career developments.  In the case of contrasting dogmatic (religious, political, etc.) perspectives from some home countries cultures, and certainly where LGB or T community members are concerned, the experience of learning about and sharing diversity can and often is lifechanging.

The LGB or T dimension of diversity can be regarded as unique as it is informed by the following factors: sexual orientations and also gender identity are NOT matters of choice but of instinct and Nature. A large majority of countries in the world still have laws and societies that are largely anti-LGB or T and consequently mental health (depression or worse) can result for those whose nature is not heterosexual or ‘cisgender’ [binary, male or female] as seeking and needing in the case for example of gay and lesbian people to establish same-sex loving relationships can be fraught with ordeals and threats. 

Universities and language colleges can for many from countries and lands that are intolerant of LGB or T identities, life changing liberating ones as they can connect with fellow community members and have the protection of UK law to be who they are. 

Diversity and other cultures, arts, and religions:

The main learning and sharing Diversity and transcultural learning opportunities available through university or language college study experience concentrate on Diversity and other cultures, Arts, and religions.  It is through these that major, sometimes life changing, experiences are realised, making one often immune to intolerance and prejudiced thinking, and making one truly a global citizen.

Annual cultural festivals can often be ideal ways of learning about other cultures and customs, including meeting local ethnic and other diverse communities.