Skip to main content
Diversity page header

Imperial College London and University of Reading - Supporting the Identity Development of Underrepresented Students (SIDUS)

Facilitated by the 2021-22 Collaborative Development Fund, this is Imperial College London and the University of Reading's contribution to the 'Inclusive institutions: enabling and supporting culture change' project.

With an increasing number of students from underrepresented backgrounds in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine (STEMM) at university, it is important to cultivate a diverse and inclusive academic community for all. This is particularly important for students’ sense of belonging and the development of their disciplinary and professional identities.

Supporting the Identity Development of Underrepresented Students (SIDUS) was a project funded by Imperial College London’s Excellence Fund for Learning and Teaching Innovation, in collaboration with the University of Reading. The aim was to promote inclusion and diversity and support success for underrepresented students in STEMM. 

Buff line

Staff-student partnership: What is the key to success?

In this introductory blog, the project team explain the rationale behind their research.

Read the blog
Governance and policies
Buff line

Aims and objectives

Through a meaningful staff-student partnership, the team from Imperial College London and the University of Reading:

  • demonstrate how institutional cultures can be changed through research-informed, co-produced resources distributed in a ‘bottom-up’ way, and
  • reflect on their contribution to positive cultural change at both universities.

This change has been showcased through evidence-based case studies, three animated videos and a blog, which focus on how to tackle issues such as competitiveness, imposter syndrome, and lack of belonging for underrepresented students. 

Project outputs

The project outputs are intended to showcase the impact of the SIDUS work and create a suite of evidence-based examples/case studies to support institutional culture change. The team has produced these outputs as part of our wider commitment to share, reflect and disseminate good practice that drives culture change at Imperial, Reading and beyond. Where relevant, the team has included links to the SIDUS materials that can be downloaded, adapted and tailored for contextualised usage across institutions.

Video 1 - Overview of the SIDUS Project

This video provides an overview of the SIDUS project. 110 interviews with undergraduate students from Imperial College London and the University of Reading in 2020 were used as the basis of our student support resources and pedagogical interventions: our Student’s Guide to Imperial, bookmarks and poster campaign (co-produced with student partners through Imperial’s StudentShapers scheme) and a staff guide to using these student-facing resources.

Download the video
SIDUS project video 1

Video 2: Imposter Syndrome

This video focuses on Imposter Syndrome, summarising one of our research findings with quotes from student interviewees and analysis. While many students felt like imposters during the transition to university and assessments periods, other students persistently felt like frauds despite their achievements. We highlight that imposter feelings are often produced by exclusionary environments; whereby marginalised students’ imposter feelings were reinforced by their experiences of being marginalised. Thus, we encourage universities to approach Imposter Syndrome as a structural equality, diversity, and inclusion issue.

Download the video
SIDUS video 2

Video 3: Asking for help: Lakshani's story

This video focuses on one student’s experience of asking for help at university. One of our students - Lakshani (a pseudonym, voiced by an actor) – describes accessing university counselling services and academic mentoring to support her mental health through a difficult transition to university as a student from multiple underrepresented groups in UK higher education. This story highlights common challenges facing students through the words of student. Lakshani’s experience highlights the importance of reaching out for support from friends, student support services, and university staff.

Download the video
SIDUS project video 3
Buff line

Case studies

The project also comprises three case studies:

Case study 1: Promoting an Inclusive Culture at Imperial College London

This case study reports on the impact the SIDUS project. We include an overview of the project, pedagogical outputs, and the results of six focus groups with students at Imperial College London about their responses to our student-facing resources.

Case study 2: Discussing and addressing Imposter Syndrome through a cross curricular module at Imperial College London

This case study demonstrates how staff at Imperial College London have used the SIDUS Project resources to facilitate discussions about Imposter Syndrome amongst students on a cross curricular module focused on the ‘Science of Learning’. These discussions enable reflections about how to address to Imposter Syndrome at both an individual and cultural level.

Case study 3: Promoting an Inclusive Culture at the University of Reading

This case study reports on the impact of the Student Experiences in STEM (SESTEM) project and the SIDUS project in promoting an inclusive culture at the University of Reading. Some of the resulting initiatives are reflected on by academics and student partners, including reworking SIDUS project bookmarks (produced initially for the Imperial College context) to work at Reading.

Download the case studies
Buff line

Project team

Tiffany Chiu

Senior Teaching Fellow in Educational Development
Imperial College London
Tiffany Chiu profile photo
Dr Tiffany Chiu is a Senior Teaching Fellow in Educational Development at the Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship, Imperial College London. She is Programme Director for the PG Cert in University Learning and Teaching and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Tiffany has led multiple projects in partnership with students and staff across the university on inclusion and diversity.

Jo Horsburgh

Principal Teaching Fellow in Medical Education
Imperial College London
Jo Horsburgh
Dr Jo Horsburgh is a Principal Teaching Fellow in Medical Education based within the Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship (CHERS) at Imperial College London. She is the Director of Postgraduate Studies within CHERS and also the Lead of Educational Research within the Medical Education Innovation and Research Centre, also at Imperial.

Martyn Kingsbury

Professor of Higher Education
Imperial College London
Professor Martyn Kingsbury
Martyn is Professor of Higher Education and Director of the Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship at Imperial College London. He is an educational developer and experienced teacher from a biomedical research background and has senior leadership access and influences educational strategy at the institutional level.

Órla Meadhbh Murray

Research Associate
Imperial College London
Orla Murray
Órla is a Research Associate at Imperial College London's Centre for Higher Education Research and Scholarship. Her research focuses on feminist sociology, specifically Institutional Ethnography, audit culture, and intersecting inequalities in UK universities.

Billy Wong

Associate Professor
University of Reading
Billy Wong
Billy is an Associate Professor at the Institute of Education, University of Reading, where he is also the university’s Director of Research and Evaluation (Access & Participation). His areas of research are educational identities and inequalities, especially in the context of higher education and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.