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Inclusive Reading List Toolkit

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Introduction to Inclusive Education

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Inclusion is about everyone being able to bring their whole self to King's, without having to downplay or change elements of their identity. Our commitment to inclusion means that we will create an environment where differences are not just respected, but valued and celebrated. Our policies, practices and processes should empower everyone. Inclusivity in education is fundamental and central to the success of all students to ensure that everyone can participate fully and fulfill their potential. Creating an inclusive learning environment through reading lists involves including resources from multiple voices and on multiple topics, creating space for alternative perspectives without bias towards one particular voice or focus. This should allow students to discover different narratives through their studies, which result in a feeling of belonging to both their course and to the university as a whole. 

The Attainment Gap

Nationally in the UK, there is a significant attainment gap- the awarding of a First or 2:1 degree- between White and Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) students, standing at 8.8% for 2021 graduates, this gap is larger between White and Black students specifically, growing to 18.4% [Universities UK].  

While the picture at King’s (Universities UK, n.d)  is slightly better than the national average, the attainment gap remains and the college has ‘set an ambitious target to eliminate the gap in attainment between White and BME students by 2024-25 and, as part of that, a specific target to close the gap for Black students, where the gap is largest.’[King's College London 2023 & Allen et al 2021]

One pillar of the institution-wide work to tackle the gap at King’s is our commitment to embedding an inclusive education experience into the curriculum, as outlined in Strategy 2026. 

Reading lists are the backbone of any curriculum; directing areas of study, essays choices and canonising leading voices in any field. Including one text over another- or labelling one as ‘core’ and another as ‘additional’- can unintentionally signify which voices are valued. 

Can my students read my books?

If you are writing an academic book, you probably want your institution’s library to be able to purchase it. You may also want to incorporate it into your online reading list so your students can read it.  

Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it appears.  

We still buy print, but we always buy ebooks first. This is to ensure our collections are accessible to as many people as possible, even when they’re not on campus and can also be a preferred format to our users with a particular accessibility need. However, publishers sell books to academic libraries very differently to how they sell them to individuals. Here are some of the challenges: 

A study by the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) in 2018 found that only 10% of academic titles were available digitally for libraries to purchase.

We have to buy ebooks that are licensed to universities. Some are only available to individuals and not to libraries. We do have a Copyright Licensing Agency agreement, but that only enables us to copy one chapter and some titles are exempt from copying at all.

Sometimes even if an ebook is available for us to purchase it may be prohibitively expensive. For example, some titles are only made available through an etextbook model. This means the library is charged per student on a module. We are not purchasing the ebook outright, but subscribing to it for 1 year. If we need them for longer we pay again.

​Ebooks can be incredibly expensive and are usually hundreds (and sometimes thousands) of pounds more expensive than a print title. This is understandable if access is available to all across the university, but often this can be for just 1 or 2 licenses. In the case of etextbooks the prices can be enormous.

Alternatively, an ebook might be available to academic institutions, but not as an individual title, only within a larger package of ebooks. This is marketed to us as being good value for money, but it often means we can’t buy it at all.

Sometimes you purchase an ebook and they take it away again. In 2021 we had 8000 titles removed from one of our ebook platforms and were given the opportunity to purchase back titles we had already bought at a 10% discount. While this is an extreme example, it’s not an uncommon practice and we are increasingly seeing publishers strategically remove ebooks with high usage to sell through etextbook models.

Diversity of Authorship

The practical reasons why we are limited in what material we can make electronically available to staff and students are set out in 'Can my students read my books'. 
Unfortunately, these are not the only limiting factors. As a library, we are committed to anti-racism and curating a collection that our staff and students can find themselves in. We are, however, limited not only by what publishers make available but also by what gets published in the first place. 

There are additional problems that are related to the nature of the current publishing landscape. The scholarly publishing world is not reflective of society as a whole, with 81% of the workforce being white, going up to 91% for senior managers [Taylor et al 2020, p.358 ].  Royal Society data tells us that 36% of authors in their academic journals are from Black or global majority backgrounds, and that only 7% of authors are disabled [ Royal Society 2022, p.53].  This data tells us that the academic publishing world is one in which there is still a way to go before we can speak of a diverse and inclusive culture. And it is within this culture that what gets published is decided. 

There are alternative forms of publishing that we encourage you to think about adding to your reading list. What we are inclined to think of as “rigorous” or “academic” publishing is often only the perspective of a particular person or group of people that we have learned to consider as standard. There could be immensely interesting work being done in your field that is published outside of the traditional means because it comes from people for whom it is more difficult to break into that field. Consider looking at blog posts, social media, YouTube videos, self-published works and other forms of media output – these may very well contain insight beneficial to your students. 


Sustainability - The cost of academic publishing

Student Voice

Student Feedback

We know from student feedback that reading lists and library collections impact the student experience. Making reading lists representative of the King's community directly impacts the development of diverse library collections, and thereby supports the foundation on which inclusive education can be built. 

See the video below for examples of authentic student feedback.