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26 May 2020

Creating an inclusive environment thanks to a student dissertation

Haleemah Shaffait’s research on the experience of Muslim students has been turned into a policy brief for the Department of Geography

The policy brief Haleema Shaffait created

King’s Department of Geography has been so impressed by the work of one of its graduates that is using her dissertation findings to inform its work on creating an inclusive environment for all.

Haleemah Shaffait looked at the experience of Muslim students for her dissertation while an undergraduate for her BA in Geography. Now her research has been turned into a policy brief, which she presented to the Department’s Equality Diversity and Inclusion Committee this month, and several of her recommendations are being adopted.

Haleemah, who graduated from King’s in 2019, said: “When I was writing my dissertation, I did not expect it to result in this, but I am really glad I have been able to have such a positive impact."

Although my focus was on Muslim students, these recommendations could benefit everyone and create a more inclusive environment overall.

Haleemah Shaffait
Haleemah Shaffait
Haleemah Shaffait

Haleemah came up with the idea for her dissertation in the spring of her second year after finding very little evidence on the experience of Muslim students at UK universities. That which does exist highlights how some can face discrimination, higher drop-out rates and lower degree attainment compared to other students.

She carried out 16 in-depth interviews with Muslim students at King’s to learn about their experiences. These proved to be very diverse but there were also common themes around ways to make higher education fully inclusive. On the advice and support from Dr Katie Meehan, she turned this into a policy brief, funded by the Department’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

The document highlights how events serving alcohol can serve as a barrier to some students participating with the recommendation for developing alcohol-free activities. It also suggests adapting teaching schedules where possible to allow Muslim students to attend Friday prayers.

The policy brief also recommends creating a diverse and decolonised curriculum to give students from all backgrounds a stronger sense of belonging, the importance of tracking attainment based on religion and ethnicity, as well as highlighting the positive effect of having BAME academics on students.

Professor Cathy McIlwaine, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion lead for the Department of Geography, said: “Working more closely with our undergraduate students has been one of the aims of our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee."


We were hugely impressed by Haleemah’s research and the insights it has provided into the experiences of some of our students. Her policy brief has given us invaluable evidence that we can use to inform our existing and new initiatives

Professor Cathy McIlwaine, Department of Geography