Investigation: What changes have British universities actually made since BLM?
Has your uni done enough?
After the events and protests of May and June, sparked by the death of George Floyd, many UK unis released statements and Twitter threads in support of Black Lives Matter. Some unis went a step further than this, recognising their failings towards black students and staff within their own institutions and promising to do more to promote anti-racism.
Now, nearly five months on, it is still unclear what universities have changed or what actions they have taken to combat racism within their institutions since June. Some unis have whole sections on their websites dedicated to improvements they’ve made following the BLM movement, whilst others bury important changes in lengthy PDFs. Many haven’t mentioned anything on their websites since June.
The Tab contacted 35 UK unis to see what changes they have made since their promises in the summer. Out of the 27 unis we emailed asking for more information, 15 replied. Here’s a rundown.
In June the University of Aberdeen posted a statement which listed actions they are already taking to combat racism and inequality. They also added: “We know there is much to be done still and this includes ensuring our curriculum is fully inclusive and also contributing to tackling the national attainment gap linked to race and ethnicity. Let us absolutely assure you that we will do this with energy, vision and determination.”
In July, Aberdeen followed this statement up in their BLM updates section, saying they are investing in a new research post to confront the university’s connection with the slave trade and explore how the North East of Scotland benefited from its proceeds.
They also agreed to “work further on tackling racism with our campus trade unions”, and launched “listening sessions” to talk to students about their lived experiences of racism on campus.
The uni continues to work with their Race Equality Strategy group, and said, “there is much to do to tackle structural racism in our education and research but we will do whatever is necessary to eliminate it”.
Since 1495 we have been open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others. We welcome staff and students of all backgrounds, locally, nationally and internationally. [continued below] pic.twitter.com/pBkmqna35P
— University of Aberdeen (@aberdeenuni) June 2, 2020
Birmingham uni released an article on how to support the Black Lives Matter cause more broadly and tweeted about support available via Pause, Workplace Wellbeing or their Chaplaincy. In a Tweet, they said: “We stand with our community across the globe in opposing racism and discrimination. We offer our full support to anyone affected by these issues.”
Back in June, The Tab asked what action they were taking to promote equality, and the university did not reply. After not being able to find much on their website, The Tab emailed asking what changes Birmingham were making. A University of Birmingham spokesperson said: “Following events earlier this year, the University of Birmingham has been working to ensure that as an institution we continue to reflect, learn about and discuss race inequality. As one of 15 institutions recognised by Advance HE with the Race Equality Charter, we are in the process of implementing a long-term programme of structural change to foster and maintain an academic community in which individuals from all ethnic backgrounds can benefit equally from the opportunities it affords.
“Other steps we have taken include online listening events, the development of online anti-racism resources and reading lists and ongoing work with Birmingham Museums and Libraries to explore the legacy of the University’s founder Joseph Chamberlain. We have also been involved with #PressPause campaign – an Advance HE funded project to develop a toolkit to address racial microaggressions.
“Recognising and acknowledging the significance of the Black Lives Matter protests and the impact of members of our university community, our programme of events for this year’s Black History Month have been themed around “The Aftermath”, with a range of thought-provoking events covering topics related to the opposition of racism.”
We stand with our community across the globe in opposing racism and discrimination. We offer our full support to anyone affected by these issues; this is available via @UoB_Chaplaincy, the Pause team at: https://t.co/D9xCr23sHm and the Well-being team at: https://t.co/6mS8xSXXYs pic.twitter.com/wjWFXzapz2
— Uni of Birmingham (@unibirmingham) June 3, 2020
In a statement issued in June, Bournemouth Uni said: “We want our staff, students and the wider community to know that we are deeply committed to social justice and are working towards becoming a more inclusive university”. They added that they would update students on their progress. When The Tab asked what they were doing to promote equality and combat racism in June, they did not reply.
We emailed Bournemouth Uni about any changes or actions they have taken since publishing this statement. A spokesperson told The Tab: “We are currently working with a number of organisations, including the police and our students’ union, to organise events and activities to increase awareness and understanding of issues affecting the BAME community.
“BU became a member of the Race Equality Charter in 2016, which highlights the work going on in Higher Education towards improving the representation, progression and success of BAME staff and students, and we are now working towards our submission for the bronze award in early 2021. To support that, we are holding a Race Equality Charter fortnight in the first two weeks of November where we will be seeking input and feedback from a number of stakeholders including external partners, staff and students. We will also be engaging with our partners to see if there is more we can do around supporting BAME mental health.”
In June, Bristol hosted the BLM march that triggered an international trend of tearing down statues of slave traders. In response to the movement, the fall of the Colston statue and the march that attracted 10,000 people to the city centre, the University of Bristol announced in a statement that they are committing to “review and debate” the names of their buildings named after families with links to the slave trade, as well as their university logo.
They also said they were creating an “Anti-Racism Steering group” to “develop strategies to address individual, cultural and structural racism across our institution”.
Since then, the university has created a Steering group who have begun tackling racism by focussing on recruitment practices. The group have requested that the government make an amendment to the current Equality Act. The amendment would aim to “enable specific ethnic groups to be treated more favourably in employment than other ethnicities where we reasonably think that the specific ethnic group experiences disadvantage”.
Since this update in July, the university has renamed its Colston Street accommodation to “No.33”. Research is being conducted by the History of Slavery Professor, Professor Olivette Otele, to address the renaming of other buildings. They have also introduced a £1 million scholarship for Black-heritage students, which aims to address the lack of representation in higher education across the UK.
In June, Oxford Brookes University told The Tab a range of things they were doing to take action. A spokesperson from the university said: “We are committed to removing barriers to participation, inclusion and achievement for BAME students and staff. Our Race Equality Strategy, which sets out our objectives and activities up to 2022, is helping us to achieve this goal. The University takes a zero-tolerance approach to any form of harassment, hate incident, bullying or victimisation.”
The Brookes Union also released a statement and created a new student network called Brookes Black Students Campaign. They said: “We want black students to come together under the Brookes Black Students’ Campaign, to work together to make change happen.”.
Since June, the university has been continuing to pursue their Race Equality Strategy.
In June, Cambridge Uni released one statement of support from Baroness Sally Morgan, Master of Fitzwilliam College. The statement said: “Last term, we created an Equality and Diversity working group. COVID delayed our first meeting, but it cannot wait. I will Chair this group, made up of students, staff and academics, and we will take an unflinching approach to the work ahead.”
In an update, Fitzwilliam College said: “In March 2020 we established an Equality and Diversity committee to promote and support these values and take practical action where needs were identified. One direct result of this work is the introduction of anti-racism and micro-agression training, initially for all 152 freshers, which will be delivered this weekend (24th-25th Oct) through online workshops, with leading practitioner Bilal Harry Khan.”
Cardiff released a statement saying: “We will continue to use our research strength to help create a better world: by educating, ensuring our voice is heard in civic discourse, and preparing our students to be active participants in democratic society.” However, the university did not reply to The Tab when asked about action it would be taking.
According to its website, the university is pursuing its Strategic Equality Plan 2020-24, as well as continuing work through their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team. We emailed and asked what changes had been made since June, but they did not reply.
In June, Coventry said: “We firmly believe that education is a powerful force in ending discrimination and hatred. Coventry University Group is a diverse community of more than 150 nationalities and we have much to learn from each other. We are stronger when we celebrate our differences while building on what unites us.”
Since then, work within the university’s Race Equality Group and BME Staff Network is still ongoing.
The Tab emailed Coventry asking what changes it had made in response to the protests in June, but they did not reply.
Durham released a statement from Professor Antony Long, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, which said: “Having signed the Race Equality Charter in March 2019, we are working to understand any institutional or cultural barriers that may stand in the way of BAME staff and students, and to improve the representation, progression and success of BAME staff and students within our University community.” The uni also introduced a “Report and Support tool” to report “unwanted behaviour”.
Durham has created a webpage listing petitions you can sign to support the cause, as well as educational fictional and non-fiction literature to educate yourselves on lived experiences of racism and racism in the UK. The theme of Durham’s Black History Month is “changing the narrative” which “underscores the call for a change in our mindset, in light of the recent Black Lives Matter social movement and ongoing decolonising the curriculum activities.”.
The Tab emailed Durham to ask what changes it had made since June, and they sent back the statement they made in June as well as links to their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion page and to their Respect Oversight group, created in 2020, which aims to help build an environment that is “respectful and where people feel comfortable to be themselves and flourish”
The University of Edinburgh acknowledged their own “historic and current failings in this area” and pledged that they would implement their findings from their internal review into the experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and continue to act on feedback from these communities.
They also launched a “cross-disciplinary hub, RACE.ED for research and teaching on race and ethnicity”, which “brings together academics and students to explore issues of racism and be part of a University network taking forward anti-racist initiatives within our university”. However, when The Tab contacted the university, they confirmed none of this was new action.
We emailed Edinburgh uni asking what new changes they had made since June, but they did not respond.
The University of Exeter released a follow up statement following their initial statement about BLM, which explains how they are working towards ensuring that they are an “anti-racist” institution.
Since then, Exeter has said: “Working with our students on progressing the anti-racism agenda is vitally important”. They have outlined the ways in which they are doing this on their website. So far this has included meeting with students from the African Caribbean and Legion dance societies alongside reps from the Student’s Guild to discuss how they can work together to create a platform for BAME and “particularly black” voices whilst increasing engagement on the conversation of race and racism in the community.
They also held a meeting with over 120 senior managers across the university to discuss their approach to anti-racism and start “developing actions” within areas such as recruitment, the curriculum and addressing hate crime.
Glasgow tweeted a post after the death of George Floyd, saying: “We are committed to promoting equality across our community”.
The University of Glasgow has also recognised “there is more to be done in this space” to fight institutional racism, and have outlined their actions which are in progress, as well as future actions, on their website. Their work in progress includes hosting a “Decolonising the University” symposium to explore reforming and diversifying the curriculum, and looking at student data to determine whether they have an “ethnicity attainment gap”.
Future actions they intend to take include establishing a BAME Student and Staff Network, addressing any identified disparities in student attainment, promoting routes of support for recording incidents of harassment and bullying and reviewing recruitment activities.
UofG is appalled at the brutal killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. We stand together with the @gusrc and the entire UofG community in condemning all forms of racism and discrimination. We are committed to promoting equality across our community. #BlackLivesMatter #TeamUofG pic.twitter.com/lvWiIiLZUk
— University of Glasgow (@UofGlasgow) June 1, 2020
Imperial College London
In June, Imperial released a Twitter thread detailing their ongoing action to tackle racism with their university. This included encouraging more black students to apply by developing a cohort programme for young people in secondary school from year 10 to 13 and appointing a Diversity and Inclusion Outreach Coordinator for their STEM subjects to ensure diversity.
THREAD: Following our #BlackLivesMatter tweet on Monday, many members of our community have been in touch to ask – rightfully – what we are doing to help fight racism and inequality at Imperial and better-support our Black students and staff
— Imperial College (@imperialcollege) June 3, 2020
Imperial also recognised their university is no exception when it comes to “unacceptable” levels of Black staff at UK universities, and are now working with the ECU Race Equality Charter with goals of implementing their changes fully in January 2021.
They also dropped their “imperialist” Latin motto “Scientia imperii decus et tutamen” which translates as “Scientific knowledge, the crowning glory and the safeguard of the empire”.
King’s College London
In a Twitter thread in June, KCL said: “At King’s, we deplore all forms of racism. We also know that we have to look hard at our own behaviours and structures, challenging ourselves as well as others.”. They followed this up in a statement, saying they are committed to “creating an inclusive environment where all individuals are valued and able to succeed”.
At the beginning of October, they posted an update on the progress of six rapid research grants they awarded to scholars engaging with BLM and forms of “anti-Asian racism connected with the global pandemic”. One project which received funding is called “Abolitionist curriculum” which aims to create a curriculum for English “exploring colonialism, slavery and its legacies that directly inform the Black Lives Matter debates”.
It is unclear on their website what institutional changes Kings are making to “create an inclusive environment” beyond research grants. The Tab phoned and emailed KCL asking about any further actions it had taken, but they did not respond.
The past week has been a very challenging time for anyone who cares about equality and justice. At King’s, we deplore all forms of racism. We also know that we have to look hard at our own behaviours and structures, challenging ourselves as well as others. (1/4)
— King's College London (@KingsCollegeLon) June 3, 2020
Lancaster was among the universities that supported the BLM movement by posting a black square. They also tweeted: “We used #BlackOutTuesday to pause our content and listen. We heard clearly that it’s not enough to be non-racist. We all must be anti-racist and actively stand together with our black staff and students. We’re committed to that fight and we know there is much for us to do.”
The Tab emailed Lancaster on what specific changes they had made since June, but they did not reply.
The University of Leeds posted statements on social media and their website which highlighted that “Racism and intolerance, in any form, have no place at our University”.
The Tab got in touch with Leeds to ask what action it had taken since June, to which they responded saying they have initiated a “Race Equality Framework and Action Plan”. The plan aims to build trust amongst the uni’s BAME community, increase the proportion of BAME staff, remove the awarding gap for BAME students, increase student access to higher degrees from those groups and much more.
A spokesperson for Leeds University said being an inclusive university is one of their “core values”.
The University of Leicester’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nishan Canagarajah, pledged to “eliminate the awarding gap for black students, to address the chronic absence of black higher education academic staff and to work with our staff and Student’s Union to decolonise our curriculum”.
The Tab asked them for a statement on what action they have taken to address these goals specifically, they did not respond.
The University of Lincoln has said they are going to “step up the pace” of a pre-existing project to decolonise the curriculum. The Inclusive Curriculum project was initiated by Lincoln International Business School in 2016, but they have said: “This work needs wider dissemination”. They also said: “We accept the challenge that our staff should be more reflective of society at large and we will commit to ensuring our recruitment activities reach a wider audience and we aim to remove unconscious biases.”
The university has already moved to anonymised applications, and are looking to remove “other barriers to employment found by BAME applicants.” Lincoln’s SU has said that it will begin to censor the n-word in songs played at their club nights.
We emailed to ask if the uni has made any further changes since June. A University of Lincoln spokesperson told us: “The University has launched its Joint Equality Diversity and Inclusion Partnership, to rethink EDI at Lincoln. The partnership works collaboratively with staff and student networks to develop and deliver the EDI agenda across the University, bringing a wealth of lived experiences to the creation of policies and initiatives that support the drive for an inclusive and diverse community.
“In addition, this year’s Black History Month’s celebrations are running throughout the year and beyond to help raise awareness continually.
“The University and the Students’ Union are providing opportunities for all within our community to learn about the past, and various cultures and people. Black History Month also provides an opportunity to build on our One Community values all year round to develop a diverse and inclusive community within the University.”
In a statement, Professor Dame Janet Beer, Liverpool’s Vice-Chancellor, said: “Important work has been undertaken in recent years to strive to meet these commitments – including our Equality Action Plan; becoming a member of Universities Studying Slavery to acknowledge and pledge to explore our own legacies; our ongoing work following signing the joint National Union of Students and Universities UK Closing the Gap pledge, which seeks to tackle the barriers to success faced by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students; Mandatory equality and diversity training for all staff; online equality and diversity training for students; and reporting mechanisms for any student or staff member who encounters racial harassment in any form.”
The Tab emailed Liverpool Uni asking about any further changes it has made since making this statement, but they did not respond.
LSE tweeted: “At LSE, we have a responsibility to influence, change and help tackle the issues that threaten our values. We must also ensure our own practices reflect our research and public engagement. This includes offering support, understanding and opportunities to our black students and staff”.
In the same thread, they tweeted about existing services and their longterm “Inclusive Education Plan” which was implemented at the beginning of the last academic year.
🔴 Report it. Stop it: https://t.co/CbfYg0Yu6b
🔴 Student Wellbeing: https://t.co/zU0uswkUqH
🔴 Residences: https://t.co/OlwquPvunq
🔴 Academic Support: https://t.co/JPrZwlSW37
🔴 Staff Support: https://t.co/1I742GzINz
🔴 Exceptional Circumstances Policy: https://t.co/qG5N19eM6U
— LSE (@LSEnews) June 2, 2020
In a statement from the university written by Professor Nalin Thakkar, Vice-President for Social Responsibility, Manchester uni said: “We monitor our policies and processes to prevent systemic racism and act where we see evidence of bias. We have a Report and Support mechanism in place where our community is able to raise issues.
“We are here to support anyone who has been affected by discrimination and our counselling and support services are available to all staff and students.”
We emailed Manchester asking what changes it had made since the protests in June, to which they responded with a 19 page document detailing over 40 ways in which they are taking action. In the executive summary, they said: “The terrible events in the United States over the summer focussed our efforts and led to the production of this report. We have listened to students, staff and the wider community and have considered what more we can do to support race and wider equality at Manchester. We acknowledge that people across a range of backgrounds face discrimination, prejudice and social exclusion. However, based on recent events and our growing understanding of the disproportionate impact of institutional racism on some groups, we decided in this report to particularly focus on Black students and staff.”
Some of their focuses include black student attainment, funding and experience, as well as staff recruitment, progression and pay.
Newcastle published a statement which highlighted their commitment to change and action: “We are committed to progressing this agenda together and we will, as part of our Race Equality Charter work, agree on an action plan for the year ahead.”
We contacted Newcastle University asking about any further action or changes they have made. A spokesperson told us about their ongoing work with their Race Equality Charter, which included conducting a race equality survey earlier this year for colleagues and students to “better understand the institutional and cultural barriers that stand in the way of our colleagues and students from minority ethnic backgrounds.”
They also said: “Building on the results of these surveys and additional work by the team, a detailed action plan has been developed and is scheduled for discussion by the University’s Executive Board this week. This sets out a number of areas of work to progress and identifies key milestones, and will be shared with the whole university community subsequently.
“Alongside this, we have enhanced our student ‘report and support’ system to now offer a platform to capture all forms of hate crime. We also recently announced three new scholarships for black students, and hope to make further, similar opportunities available soon.
They then repeated: “We are committed to progressing this agenda” and that they are “working hard to ensure that our students and colleagues can have confidence that they study, work and live in a safe, supportive and inclusive environment.”
The University of Nottingham issued a joint statement from Vice-Chancellor Shearer West and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Sarah Sharple, which recognised the student response to the movement: “The response that we have heard from our student groups this week has told us that we are not doing well enough to ensure that all of our students feel included or listened to, we have not been working quickly enough, and that we have not been open enough about the work that is already taking place.”
The statement also said: “It can be very easy to write words, and can be much harder to deliver actions”.
In June, a spokesperson from the university told The Tab: “The University has introduced measures such as anonymised applications; training for academics to address unconscious bias in the classroom; inclusive teaching practices; reverse-mentoring schemes; and work to decolonise the curriculum. We are also working to improve education to tackle racism and enhance our harassment reporting procedures.” They then confirmed these actions were already in place before the BLM movement.
We asked what new action has been taken since June, to which the university replied with a link to their September Action Plan. The grid shows what actions they are taking towards changes that the students and staff recommended, including a date for when they intend to implement the changes.
Oxford issued a short thread on Twitter, as well as statements from individual colleges, which said: “We’re committed to supporting our community in opposing racism in all its forms, including upholding anti-racist values” and included a link to their resources for equality and diversity.
When The Tab contacted them in June, asking what actions they were taking to promote equality and anti-racism, they sent a link defending their decision not to publish their admissions data.
The BLM movement in June prompted the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign to re-ignite, with one college backing the removal of the imperialist statue of Cecil Rhodes. In response, a university spokesperson said: “We must continue to create a genuinely diverse and inclusive academic community in which students and staff feel respected and secure. We are committed to addressing systemic racism wherever it may be found, including within our own community”.
We emailed Oxford asking what changes they have implemented since these events in June, but they did not respond.
RHUL posted a short statement by their Principal Professor Paul Layzell, which supported the BLM movement and recognised that there is more to be done to support black students. It said: “One student has written to me to say that our black students are subjected to racism from fellow students in the spirit of debate and called aggressive for responding with passion. This is not acceptable. We have to do more to support you. We will do more.”
However, the statement didn’t outline how they were going to support black students, or highlight any actions the university are taking. The university is part of the Race Equality Charter, but this pre-dates the events in June.
We emailed Royal Holloway, quoted their statement back to them and asked what they are doing to support students and “do more”. They sent us an excerpt from their student newsletter, where Professor Paul Layzell, Principal, said: “Work to improve our black students’ experience continues within our academic departments. Examples include efforts to introduce additional black voices into the curriculum, expand course content to cover topics that reflect the cultures and experiences of black academics and students and initiatives to increase black students’ representation. There are also other targeted interventions to reduce the awarding and progression gaps which we’ll be reporting back on as we make progress.”
Queen’s University Belfast
Queen’s University Belfast came under fire in June after the QUB African-Caribbean Society sent an open letter in response to the uni’s statement regarding the BLM movement. The open letter called the uni out for their “shoddy attempt” at solidarity and said that the university needs to “urgently” re-evaluate its approach to race.
The open letter highlighted the lived experience of black students at the university, which includes experiences of frequent microaggressions on campus, “overt instances of racism” and even accounts of staff saying that they are afraid of black male students because they are “big black guys”. In response, the university said that they would “publish progression data for black and minority ethnic students and staff, including attainment, and to ensure appropriate diversity in the curriculum”.
Although the university are hosting a student-led discussion on Decolonising the Curriculum as part of Black History Month, they have made no obvious adjustments to their own curriculums and the progression data is missing from their website.
We emailed and asked what the university has changed to address these concerns since June, but they did not respond.
Our open letter addressed to the Chancellor and Vice Chancellor of Queen's University Belfast in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and resultant global protests.
We will not stand for performative solidarity Queen's University Belfast. Queen's must do better! #BLM✊🏾 pic.twitter.com/CAQz7gJj2i
— Queen's Belfast ACS (@qubacs) June 4, 2020
Queen Mary University London
Following the BLM movement, Queen Mary released a statement saying: “Inclusion is a value which we aim to have at the centre of all we do at Queen Mary. Events like these remind us not only of the importance of inclusion and tolerance, but also of the vitally important, ongoing work we have to do to be a truly inclusive University.”
Queen Mary’s students penned an open letter, supported by the SU to the university, after feeling “disappointed” and “let down” by the universities response, and accusing them of using “empty words”.
It said: “You have provided no resources within your statement to students, no way of allowing the students to get involved and participate in the movement. There are no links to donations for any of the victims’ families. Without any proactiveness to support the movement, it’s just empty words. With this, it brings the feeling that you’re not dedicated to bringing about any actual change.”
Following pressure by students, Queen Mary announced in a statement that it would be starting BAME network at the uni: “A step I would like to take now is to set up a BAME network: led by the BAME community, for the BAME community, with the aim of bringing about positive change and giving our BAME community a voice.”
We emailed Queen Mary and asked what action has been taken since this, as evidence of a BAME Network is missing from their website. Sheila Gupta, Vice-Principal (People, Culture and Inclusion), told The Tab: “Queen Mary is committed to becoming the most inclusive university of its kind anywhere – this is at the heart of our 2030 Strategy. As one step on this journey, over the summer we launched the Race Equality Action Group, one of a number of networks we are setting up to bring together staff and students from across the institution to address race equality issues in a broad and inclusive manner.”
Sheffield Uni offered words and organisations of support towards the BLM movement, with the Chair of the Race Equality Steering Group, Susan Fitzmarice, saying: “Our new wellbeing service offers 1-2-1 support to help students who are feeling down, overwhelmed or struggling with any aspect of life during these challenging times. Our Counselling Service offers confidential emotional support for students who need dedicated help. You can also visit Report + Support to report and access support about harassment and discrimination of any kind.”
The uni also tweeted: “We know we have a lot more to learn, a lot more to understand and, most importantly, a lot more to do to achieve a truly inclusive culture at Sheffield.” The university did not reply to The Tab when we asked what new action it would be taking to combat racism and promote equality.
Since then, the university has continued to work with their Race Equality Steering Group to “ensure race-related issues for staff and students” are addressed.
We emailed Sheffield to ask what new changes had been implemented since June, beyond the Race Equality Steering Group, but they did not reply.
Southampton uni also published a Twitter thread stating that they are “firmly against racism” and said that through their Race Equality Charter they will “continue to collaborate, challenge and proactively address racism”.
They continue to hold Equality and Diversity consultations and document the issues raised and how they are going to act on them. One of the issues flagged was diversity within staff, to which they said: “The HR department will analyse its recruitment processes and implement more active ways of recruiting a diverse workforce.”
The University of Southampton stands firmly against racism and violence towards members of the black and minority ethnic community both at our University and across the globe.
— University of Southampton (@unisouthampton) June 3, 2020
The University of St Andrews published a public apology for past failures in elevating and valuing black students and staff. Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, said: “We know that for decades, St Andrews hasn’t got this right, that we’ve let down our BAME students and staff, and that our university has been, and continues to be, so much the poorer for it. On behalf of this institution, I apologise for that.”
They also laid out the actions the university are going to take as a result of this realisation, and the BLM movement, including implementing an “audit of inclusive curriculum initiatives” across the university “with a focus on race and ethnicity”. Most of the list included what actions they are already taking.
We emailed St Andrews about what changes and actions they had taken since June, and they replied with a very extensive list of ongoing work and new projects. A spokesperson told The Tab: “We have attended a hugely helpful and revealing roundtable with BAME students, organised by the Rector’s Assessor. The group is finalising a comprehensive BAME Students Action Plan, the fundamentals of which are already driving policy and practice in the University.
“We will be assisting the Group to publish the independent Action Plan in the very near future. Its findings will be uncomfortable for some, it will provide key points for debate and reflection, and its ideas and suggestions will further drive the change that is already underway. The BAME Students Action Group is also working closely with the St Andrews Students’ Association.”
New actions include working with the Student Ambassadors to ensure more BAME students are recruited, training and development courses that go beyond standard unconscious bias training for staff and they are about to launch a new Report and Support tool to report “a wide range of negative experiences and behaviours”. If this tool is adopted, they hope it will identify any “hotspots” for this behaviour where they can intervene with “roving” and “bespoke training”.
In June, Sussex tweeted: “We can’t ignore that structural racism exists in Higher Education – it’s real and requires actions not just words. We’ll continue to work to make sure that BAME staff and students are not disadvantaged here at Sussex.”
They also tweeted some proposed actions: “We want to boost the work of @BAMESussex – a @USSU programme funded by the University. We want to make sure that BAME students are welcomed, supported and achieve at Sussex.”
We can’t ignore that structural racism exists in Higher Education – it’s real and requires actions not just words. We’ll continue to work to make sure that BAME staff and students are not disadvantaged here at Sussex. (1/3)
— University of Sussex (@SussexUni) June 2, 2020
Their statement came under fire from students for highlighting the current events as a BAME issue, and not something threatening black lives, to which they said: “We’re sorry that we referred to BAME members of our community rather than specifically black staff and students – we appreciate this was insensitive and we hope people understand it was made in good faith.”
We emailed Sussex to ask what changes or actions it has put in place since June to deliver on these statements. They told The Tab: “It takes time to make sustained and meaningful progress towards addressing the entrenched, structural issues that perpetuate racism within our institutions. It is important both that we act and that we act in the right ways.
“This is why, this academic year, we are undertaking our biggest-ever data-gathering exercise about race equity at the University of Sussex, starting with a university-wide survey this November.
“Our Race Equality Charter work is fundamental to delivering our anti-racism goals from a solid foundation. The REC provides a vital framework for us to identify and address the multi-layered and varied institutional and cultural barriers for our BAME community, including black students and staff.
“Since the summer, our REC Self-Assessment Group has set up three cross-university sub-groups to tackle the areas that need the most urgent attention: University culture, staff experience and student experience. Each of these groups have now held their first meetings and are making proposals as we work towards a REC bronze award.
“Also, following a successful trial in the last academic year, we are once again supporting our Students’ Union’s Race Equity Advocates scheme, employing fellow students to support and advocate on behalf of BAME students at Sussex.
“There is also ongoing work across the University to address the awarding gap at individual School level.”
University College London
UCL’s statement said that their Equality, Diversity and Inclusion team are “working at speed on an institutional plan for 2020-21 and it will include specific action on racial equality in the context of coronavirus” and listed the actions they are taking or going to take.
When The Tab asked what actions they are taking, they told us: “We are putting £250k dedicated funding towards eliminating the BAME attainment gap.”
We emailed the university to ask if this is still going ahead, which they confirmed it was. They also told The Tab: “UCL’s new Equity and Inclusion Plan 2020-21 is being published next week and UCL’s Race Equality Implementation Group will deliver an institutional race equality plan by the end of December.”
University of East Anglia
In a Twitter thread, UEA’s Vice-Chancellor David Richardson said: “UEA stands in solidarity with all of our BAME students and staff at this difficult time”.
In June, The Tab asked what direct action they would be taking to tackle inequality and racism but they did not respond.
The Tab emailed and asked UEA for more information on any changes it had made since June, and they replied with lots of details of different actions plans to tackle participation, attainment, staff training and decolonising the curriculum. A spokesperson said: “For the decolonising work specifically, each School reports to the UEA Inclusive Education Committee which reports into UEA’s Learning and Teaching Committee and then onto Senate, which includes representation from UEA’s Council.
“Each Faculty has a decolonising lead and UEA has a 10 point action plan to close the degree awarding gap between black students and white students.”
The Vice-Chancellor also chaired the first meeting of the Tackling Racism Taskforce at UEA last week.
“UEA stands in solidarity with all of our BAME students and staff at this difficult time.” #BlackLivesMatter UEA Vice-Chancellor David Richardson
— UEA (@uniofeastanglia) June 1, 2020
Warwick released a statement detailing their support for the BLM movements, as well as a list of actions the university are already taking or have been involved in to help tackle racism and inequality on campus. However, they did acknowledge the need for further action: “These actions alone do not reflect the enormity of the challenge the current situation has highlighted”.
The statement caused backlash from students for not stating the actions it would be taking to change. Students wrote an open letter to the university, backed by SU officers, detailing the actions it should take to make a difference.
We emailed Warwick to ask what further action or changes they have made since June. They emailed us a statement including details of a new Report and Support tool, introduced in August, as well as the development of a new anti-racist training programme, improvements in recruitment practices for students and staff and widening participation work ongoing through their Race Equality Taskforce.
They also told The Tab that they are funding the decolonisation of the university curriculum: “There is also the decolonisation of the curriculum work that has been carried out by the SU, and funded by the University, and we have just received a report providing an update and recommendations. We thank the SU for their work on this and we will respond to the recommendations once we have had an opportunity to review them.
“We are already in the process of organising workshops to share best practice that has come out of this work and to develop an approach that embeds de-colonisation into curriculum design and classroom culture across all faculties. To further support and develop the skills of teaching staff we are holding regular sessions on anti-racist teaching practices, facilitated by WIHEA anti-racist pedagogy learning circle.”
The Vice-Chancellor of York Uni posted a statement in June saying: “We are committed to creating an environment which is safe, inclusive and welcoming for everyone.”
York engaged in a “staff listening exercise”, and say “work is underway” to build on and correct the issues raised in this meeting. The university also condemned the Facebook confessions page “Yorfess” after it was taken down following mass reports of racism.
We contacted York Uni to ask what new action there has been after BLM, to which they told The Tab: “We have established a new Race Equality Coordination Group to provide the University with guidance on the anti-racism agenda. This group includes undergraduate and postgraduate representatives. Our new ‘let’s talk about race and racism’ pages have been designed to share the information and resources we’re developing.
“Our new Your Library, Your Voice platform includes a growing range of reading lists on equality and diversity themes, including a focus on the Black Lives Matter movement (and related issues of racism and decolonising education) “
They also detailed lots of ongoing projects that predate June, including their Dignity at Work and Study policy, which offers supports for anyone experiencing or witnessing hate, and their report and support tool for reporting hate incidents.
They plan to have the first meeting of their Race Equality Coordination Group in a months time, where an announcement on more actions the university are taking is to be expected.