By Antje Brauer-Maxaeia, on 11 March 2016
On 8 February, my SSEES Library colleague Vladimir Smith Mesa and I attended the launch of RaceMatters@UCL, a new forum to encourage networking, peer support, sharing ideas, organising events, and positively influencing policy and practice on race equality at UCL. The event was organised by the HR Equalities and Diversity Team.
Impetus for the establishment of the network was also provided by UCL being one of only eight higher education institution to receive the Race Equality Charter Bronze Award, out of 21 applicants, in August 2015. The Race Equality Charter is a national scheme “aimed at improving the representation, progression and success of ethnic minority staff and students in higher education”. It is run by the Equality Challenge Unit, the advisory body which also oversees the Athena Swan Charter for the advancement of gender equality of which UCL has been an award holder since 2006.
Participation in the scheme requires each institution to analyse its key areas of activity and then develop and put into place a comprehensive 3-year action plan, with input from both staff and students. The renewal of the award depends on successful implementation of the action plan.
The Award was introduced by Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu of the UCL School of Pharmacy, who gave a summary of possible actions which can be implemented and recounted her personal experience of the obstacles and misconceptions in higher education she faced as a Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) student and later academic.
Possible areas and actions include:
- Mainstream equality and diversity issues into the appraisal process at all levels, not only senior
- Sponsorship programme
- More transparency in senior appointments
- Recruitment panels to be more diverse
- Improve chances of promotion for professional services staff and establish ‘job families’
- Foundation courses offered to BME students to counteract the trend of not receiving university offers with same A-level grades as white students (same courses are also offered to white students from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds)
- Relevance of curriculum (this point was raised in the panel discussion ‘Why isn’t my professor black?’ hosted by UCL in March 2014, and by Dr Nathaniel Coleman)
- Anonymous marking to avoid discrimination
- Scholarships to encourage BME doctoral students
The lecture of the guest speaker Dr Nicola Rollock, from Birmingham University, was entitled “Beyond Racial Gesture Politics: moving toward race equity in higher education”.
An important point made by Dr Rollock is that this is not only a matter for BME students and staff but concerns all sections of the higher education community, including white students and staff. It requires us all to participate, contribute and examine our identities.
Dr Rollock ended her lecture with an appeal to “fight for race equity, not only equality” which takes into account the different requirements to succeed and recognise possible barriers.
In the subsequent Q&A session, Vladimir suggested the introduction of cultural awareness training for all UCL staff, given the global nature of the institution.
Since attending the RaceMatters@UCL launch, Vladimir has joined the UCL Race Equality Steering Group.
The issue of making the curriculum more inclusive to reflect representation and viewpoints of traditionally marginalised groups is starting to be addressed by the initiative ‘Liberating the Curriculum’ as described in Lesley Pitman’s post Liberating the Curriculum.
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