Global Community Conversations

Global Community Conversations: Exploring approaches to intercultural community-building at Leeds

Jenna Isherwood (International Student Office)


Project overview:

Students and staff at the University of Leeds come from diverse backgrounds, cultures and life experiences. For students, fostering connections with people from different backgrounds can have many benefits for mutual learning, wellbeing, personal development, and building an overall sense of belonging. However, some students report experiencing divisions or ‘bubbles’ within student communities that make it difficult to foster the kind of social connections they hope for.

Our University Strategy includes aspirations to “deliver an inclusive and intercultural student experience focussed on whole cohort integration, belonging and community-building.” A range of social and co-curricular activities support these aims, offering all students opportunities to step out of comfort zones, interact with people from different backgrounds, find connections, discuss differences, and reflect and act on what they’ve learned. Some activities are specifically described as “global” or “intercultural”, while others may support intercultural community-building without this being their primary stated aim. However, many people may also be unaware of opportunities or activities available, or the benefits of getting involved.

So, this project aims to gain a better understanding of different students’ experiences of feeling (or not feeling) part of an intercultural community at Leeds, in order to:

  • improve the design and delivery of social and co-curricular activities that support (intercultural) community-building;
  • improve university communications, to support enhanced awareness and engagement with relevant activities, and inspire a wider ethos of intercultural curiosity.

The research approach:

A student survey is open now until 30 January 2023, and all students and postgraduate researchers are warmly invited to complete it. All perspectives will be very valuable, including from people who haven’t thought about this subject very much. Participants can enter a prize draw to win one of two £50 vouchers.

In February 2023 the project will bring members of our University community together to share experiences and co-create recommendations. Small group conversations, in the form of Story Circles, will provide space for sharing and learning from different perspectives. Participants will then come together in a larger group to co-create recommendations for further action. Students from different backgrounds, staff involved in designing and delivering relevant activities, and academic colleagues with research interests in related fields will all be involved in this process. It is hoped that these methods will model the kind of intercultural learning experiences we hope students may encounter at Leeds, as well as taking inspiration from participatory approaches commonly used in community development.

Student and postgraduate researchers will receive a £50 voucher for participating in the workshop, and can register their interest by completing the survey.

If you would like to find out more about the project contact Jenna (

Each fellowship has a project sponsor that helps the fellows achieve impact across the institution. The sponsor for this fellowship is Greg Miller.

Project start date: January 2022