Academic Spotlight: Ben Colliver

Dr Ben Colliver has a range of experience in a variety of settings including pupil referral units, colleges and university. He has experience of working within LGBTQ support services, advocating for changes to education, healthcare and hate crime reporting services. We caught up with Ben about his career so far, what studying a degree in criminology entails and advice he has for aspiring criminologists.

What do you do at BCU and how long have you been part of the University? 

I am a Lecturer in Criminology and Course Lead for our postgraduate Criminology programme. I teach both undergraduate and postgraduate students. I joined BCU in 2018 having previously worked at Kingston University in London. 

The areas that I specialise in are:

  • Hate Crime
  • Identities and Inequalities
  • Gender and Sexualities
  • Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion
  • Online interactions, discrimination, and prejudice

Could you tell us about your experience and how this feeds into your teaching?

Before starting a career in academia, I worked for an equality, diversity and inclusion organisation in London. I have a history of activism and challenging social norms which are harmful to certain groups of people. This influences the way in which I teach, in that I believe teaching and learning to be a form of activism, and I encourage students to find an area of expertise that they are passionate about and encourage students to engage in social activism to make a change in the world.

My background in equality and diversity also impacts the content of what I teach, as criminology has historically been dominated by certain social groups. As a result, I ensure that I introduce content relating to inequalities wherever possible, lifting the voices of those who have often been overlooked or criminalised with criminology. For example, throughout the modules I teach on, I introduce students to issues around feminism, LGBTQ+ rights, institutional racism, mental health advocacy and elitism. I draw on academic research, but also industry-based experiences to inform these discussions. 

What are some of the greatest achievements you have accomplished at BCU?

Since starting at BCU I have been Course Lead for the MA Criminology programme and ran the course through the COVID-19 global pandemic. Although this was an incredibly challenging time for students and staff alike, everyone really pulled together to ensure everyone was safe and supported. Despite these difficult times, we received an overall satisfaction rating of 91 per cent in the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey.

I have also been successful in securing funding to run several Birmingham-based research projects, including a research study that explored issues of exclusion in Birmingham's Gay Village, and a research project that investigated substance use services in Birmingham. Being able to conduct local, participatory research on issues that impact local communities has been a particular achievement for me. 

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What makes the courses you teach on distinct and what is the learning environment like?

The teaching team at BCU are incredibly passionate about the topics they teach, and many of the staff are research active, which means we can use evidence-informed content in our teaching. Many of our staff have external advisory positions and great networks, meaning we are always able to find the best guest speakers to speak to our students. We take an international approach to teaching and embed global issues within our teaching to ensure students have a wider awareness of what is happening in the world. We also ensure that our course are contemporary and address issues that impact all our lives.

We teach using a range of different activities, using lectures, workshops, case studies, quizzes, debates, research projects and media to ensure that the content we engage with really comes to life! We are also conscious that a lot of the material that we engage with is sensitive, and we may have all experienced different aspects of crime and victimisation, and therefore staff work hard to ensure that everyone is comfortable to engage with the materials and draw on their own experiences where appropriate. 

Why do you think Birmingham is a good place to study?

Birmingham is a great city to study in, with a huge student population there are always activities and events running throughout the city which means there is always something to do! Birmingham is also an incredibly diverse city, and this is also reflected at the University.

What can students do to help prepare them for the courses you teach?

To prepare for a course in criminology, potential students should watch, read, and listen to anything related to crime and victimisation. It is key that you develop an interest in a particular area, as this will help you focus your studies throughout your time on the course. 

What’s your favourite thing about working at the University?

My favourite thing about working at the University is the opportunity to get to know staff and students outside of the classroom. On the MA Criminology course, we hold social events such as coffee mornings so that everyone can get together and network outside of the classroom. This is key in building a really strong sense of belonging and community and is supported by the teaching team.

Also, since starting at BCU I have been able to network with staff and students to work on collaborative projects, all of which included paid 'Research Assistant' positions, which has meant I have been able to collaborate with students and mentor them in developing their own research skills and expertise. Some of these students have since gone on to enrol in postgraduate courses and doctoral research. 

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