With less than a week to go until the 2016 IPC Academy Campus opens its doors to attendees in Rio de Janeiro, we hear why inclusivity is so important to the University of Worcester in the UK, courtesy of Mick Donovan, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Worcester. Mick, and his colleague David Green, the University of Worcester’s Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, will be speaking at the Games Experience Programme and Inclusion Summit respectively which, along with the Observers’ Programme and a Closing Cocktail Reception, will form the IPC Academy Campus between 6-17 September 2016.
Delivered by the IPC Academy - the educational division created in 2009 as a partnership between the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the World Academy of Sport (WAoS) – the 2016 IPC Academy Campus is a unique event-based learning initiative that gives stakeholders of major sports events the chance to learn from their peers during the Paralympic Games.
Why did the University of Worcester want to be involved in the IPC Academy Campus?
“Clearly, we were aware of the reputation of the organisation and have seen the impact that some of the IPC Academy Campus’ programmes have. We realised that there was a great deal of synergy with the work that we undertake at the University of Worcester, in terms of educational and inclusive values.”
Who is speaking on the University of Worcester’s behalf during the Games Experience Programme and Inclusion Summit at the Campus and what will they be speaking about?
“I [Mick Donovan, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor, Inclusive Sport and Education], will be delivering a lecture during the Games Experience Programme that will focus upon the case study of the University of Worcester as a truly inclusive ‘University for Sport’, with particular reference to a meaningful legacy after the Paralympic Games in 2012. David Green, our Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, will participate as a panel member for the Inclusion Summit and will share the University of Worcester’s experiences and perspective of how the Games and inclusive sport have helped to develop the philosophy of the wider university.”
How important is the subject of inclusivity to the University of Worcester from your internal perspective?
“The University of Worcester has a very strong tradition and an excellent reputation as an inclusive, open and accessible university. This spirit of inclusion is exemplified by the University of Worcester Arena. The Arena is the first mass-participation indoor sports arena in the UK designed to include wheelchair athletes. It won [UK newspaper] The Guardian’s 2015 award for the most inspiring university building in the country. We became the first university to host the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships, at which Worcester student Sophie Carrigill captained the Arena-based GB women’s team to bronze, qualifying along with the men’s team for the Rio Paralympics. There are a significant number of students and staff who receive support as elite athletes while pursuing their careers or study pathways; we have several para sport university teams and are currently British University Wheelchair Basketball champions.
“In 2015, the University Library, the Hive, Europe’s first joint university and public library, was nominated for its 50th award since it was opened by the Queen in 2012. Accolades include Best University Contribution to the Community (The Guardian) and Best University Library Team (Times Higher Education), together with numerous architectural, library and environmental awards. An imaginative exhibition of illustrations for visually impaired children and a club for books without words for those with learning difficulties were staged by the University at the Hive.
“By placing great importance on combining enduring human values with professionalism, the University of Worcester community is an environment in which staff and students thrive: we have no gender pay gap and 59% of senior positions are held by women. Our approach also makes a huge contribution to the employability of our graduates, with 19 out of 20 in work or further study within six months of completing their courses.
“A notable example of the inclusive university culture saw over 200 staff and volunteers from the university engage in the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships 2015 for 12 days. Worcester welcomed 400 athletes and officials to a Championships that was a success in so many ways, from high attendances and media exposure to extensive community engagement.
“In terms of facilities, extensive work has been undertaken to adapt existing facilities to ensure access ‘for all’ and in 2015, an additional 350 rooms from the halls of residence were adapted for the both the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships and for students in the future. All new buildings are fully accessible and inclusive and plans for a new campus, University Court, are well developed and will create outstanding new halls of residence (over 1,000 fully accessible rooms) that will benefit students, staff, visiting athletes and the local community.”
How is the subject of inclusivity taught within your academic environment and how popular has it been?
“In 2012, the University of Worcester introduced the UK’s first degree in Coaching and Disability Sport BSc (Hons), which is now attracting a substantial number of high achieving applicants who wish to develop their knowledge and understanding in this field while also aspiring to make a difference as a coach or teacher. This initiative drew praise from David Willetts, the UK’s Minister of State for Universities and Science, at a national UK conference, post-London 2012 Games. Significantly, more than 300 students from other degree courses are currently studying at least one module related to inclusion/disability sport coaching.
“We now have an excellent reputation for providing the next generation of inclusive coaches, teachers, volunteers, development officers and administrators and consequently a high success rate of graduates securing employment in inclusive sports settings. The university has an extensive additional coach education programme that enables students and community coaches at all levels to gain new awards and during the past year, 15 inclusive sport specific courses were hosted that ranged from goalball, boccia leaders awards, deaf sign language for coaches to a football coaching course for the visually impaired. Once again, there were hundreds of applicants for places on the courses.”
What do you offer to the wider community?
“The University of Worcester is a global leader in the field of inclusive sport, pioneering new ways of bringing people together and unifying communities by opening up sporting opportunities for all. Inclusive sport is built upon the belief that everyone should have the chance to participate in physical activity, regardless of their circumstances. Whilst disability sport is a major part of the movement, inclusive sport also involves creating additional sporting opportunities for women and girls, older generations and minority groups.
“Since opening in 2013, the facilities that the University Arena offers have already impacted
thousands of children of all abilities to engage in inclusive sport. In the first 12 months of operation it welcomed over 500,000 people, including 150,000 children, and staged 70 national and international sporting events, 40% of which had a physical impairment focus. Activities range from beginner classes for youngsters who have never engaged in sport to international junior wheelchair basketball championships. Student coaches currently deliver outreach wheelchair and inclusive sports sessions in more than 50 partner schools and the university delivers inclusive coach education workshops and coach education programmes in the arena to a wide range and significant number of disability sports organisations each year. Throughout the year, we host arrange of national competitive inclusive sports events and also activities to increase participation that have included: Disability sports Festivals, ‘Turn up and play’, Inclusive sports day (300 children) and Sky TV ‘living for sport day’.
“Our ‘Learning Through Sport’ work with disadvantaged young people has been in operation throughout the 21st Century and has reached thousands of young people. Sharing good practice on how to promote inclusion is a key part of our work and nationally we have engaged with a significant number of UK universities and sports organisations. Internationally, we have exchanged ideas with prestigious partners that have included hosting guests from the United Arab Emirates by invitation from the British Council and a group of universities from Japan; we have travelled to meet with the Japanese Paralympic Committee, Beijing Sports University and numerous European partners to engage in collaborative discussion.”
What trends are you seeing globally regarding inclusivity? Do you think academic institutions are better at embracing inclusivity generally? And is the sports industry better at being inclusive than other industry sectors in your opinion?
“There is a great deal of work to do globally to encourage a more open and creative approach as many still think in terms of ‘physically impaired and non-physically impaired’ rather than ‘inclusive’. There has been an improvement in recent years in terms of encouraging an inclusive culture, yet so much more needs to be done. Clearly, there is a trend, in that many existing sports buildings are undergoing basic adjustments but we need to ‘get it right’ in the early stages of new builds. Those funding and creating the new buildings need to realise that it is much more inexpensive to be inclusive in the first phase of building than returning years later to make adaptions to facilities that are already being used.
“In my opinion, I do believe that the sports industry is better at being inclusive than most other industry sectors and that may well be down to the profile of sport generally, which indicates that there is indeed a significant responsibility for Paralympic sport to continue to drive the inclusive agenda and to be true ambassadors. There has been some progress in universities in the UK in terms of developing an inclusive culture and we are certainly committed to that at Worcester; we realise that we are ahead of many others but certainly recognise the need to continue to challenge our thinking. Many universities are beginning to tackle the challenge and we are seeing an increase in students taking part in inclusive sport, but again, more needs to be done.”
What would be your advice to any organisations looking to improve their inclusivity policies and procedures?
“There has to be partnership with professional advisors and the users (coaches, administrators and athletes) at all stages of any programme development, which may include facility design, writing procedures, growing participation or improving the performance of athletes. A successful stage of our Arena design process was the meetings with the para sports groups and their athletes to receive their thoughts and considerations, before we confirmed the final structure – this simple task, must not be underestimated and is certainly something that we will continue to do when planning for new buildings and sports facilities in the future. There are many examples of good practices around the world that are sometimes isolated, and if we can share ideas and bring all of the innovative practice together, we can influence a change in thinking. All strategic thinking must also include a plan for developing coachers and teachers with specialism in in inclusive sport, otherwise there is a danger that opportunities to increase participation and develop talented athletes will be missed.”
Do you have any future plans to develop your programme further and can you contribute to the wider agenda?
“We are currently developing the International centre for Inclusive Sport, Physical Activity and Health and have a significant list of partners. Consequently, we are developing more facilities that adjoin the existing Arena that will include: the National Indoor Inclusive Cricket Centre, additional inclusive training and teaching facilities and an inclusive health hub with sports science labs, teaching spaces, athletes social areas. A clear focus with all of the facilities will align to our current inclusive philosophy.
“Within the university, we have a very strong programme for developing new teachers and coaches, while supporting existing practitioners throughout the UK in areas related to inclusive sport. The staff and specialists that we have on the team continue to make an impact, with a clear understanding that the development of coaches and teachers is critical in increasing participation in sports for those people from under-represented groups, while also finding the next generation of Paralympic athletes. We are very enthusiastic about learning more from the IPC Academy and their members, but also eager to support their work with the experience and expertise that we have.”
About IPC Academy Campus
The IPC Academy Campus will take place in Rio de Janeiro between 6-17 September 2016.
Its Event Partners include the Adecco Group and the UK’s Department for International Trade. Its Media Partners are Sportcal (Intelligence Partner), Major Events International (Digest Partner), Around the Rings (Online Partner), Host City (Magazine Partner) and AXS Chat (Social Media Partner).
Tweets can be shared using: #CampusRio2016 and/or #inclusionsummit.