S1-SP4-6 - Do students from underrepresented groups feel integrated into engineering degrees?

3. Research Work In Progress
Rosó Baltà , Noelia Olmedo-Torre1, Marta Peña Carrera1
1 Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya

Keywords: Underrepresented minority, Discrimination, Diversity, Inclusion, Gender, Engineering degree


This Research Work in Progress Paper analyses the underrepresentation of ethnic and gender minority students in engineering degrees. It aims to tackle multicultural and gender imbalances and show how these students perceive their integration within the university.

There is convincing evidence that diversity among learners is of great importance for the academic development of both minority and majority students, as it provides a variety of opinions and perspectives, which creates a richer and more complex social and learning environment.

This underrepresentation of minorities becomes visible in the enrolment data of the authors’ university. During the 2019/2020 academic year, 20,177 undergraduate students were enrolled, of which only 5,294 were women (26.24%). Where 1,290 came from other countries (6.39%).

The study focuses on the following research questions:
•  Do students from minority groups feel integrated into the academic environment in engineering programs?
•  What are the main factors that make these students not feel integrated? 

To answer these questions, the study is based on an anonymous survey, drawn up using Google Forms, addressed to students of engineering degrees of the authors’ university. The students who participated were enrolled in the two schools with the lowest percentage of women and the highest number of foreign students.

This survey, distributed online, was organized in the following categories: Sociodemographic data, Information about the studies, Sense of belonging, Self-esteem, Persistence, Perception of discrimination, and Relationships.

Given the considerable number of factors that may exert influence on their outcome, this work presents a data analysis triangulation study based on the information collected from the survey. The triangulation is of the spatial type, and those hypotheses whose results are statistically more significant were selected so that a detailed study of the validity of each hypothesis may be conducted (based on a randomly-selected population together with a control group).

Different studies suggest that students who are part of minority groups feel discriminated against in academic settings, and this affects their self-esteem, sense of belonging, and persistence. Besides, evidence shows that these minorities do not usually feel included in the university environment and that this affects their academic development. Nevertheless, it is necessary to go into more detail to measure these perceptions and determine which are the factors that trigger them. In alignment with existing studies, it is expected that this research will show a higher perception of discrimination within the studied population, than that of the non-ethnic minority or female students.

Finally, this research will provide information that will help improve student enrollment and the persistence of minority groups in engineering degrees and propose actions to address inclusion in educational institutions.