The University of Reading has published its Race Equality Review.
The 51-page review was commissioned in June 2020, following what its authors describe as the “wave of introspection within the higher education sector” that followed the death in May 2020 of George Floyd and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.
University of Reading vice-chancellor Professor Robert Van de Noort said: “This is an important report for a university that has acknowledged racism affecting members of our community, and has committed itself to do something about it.
“Racism continues to blight the life experiences of many Black, Asian and minority ethic people. We can and we must do whatever it takes to ensure that race is not an obstacle to our students and our colleagues achieving their best.
“As an institution we are committed to reducing inequality, and taking action to reduce racial inequality within the university is a vital part of our mission.”
Professor Parveen Yaqoob, deputy vice-chancellor and chair of the diversity and inclusion advisory board, and Dr Allan Laville, dean for diversity and inclusion and co-chair of the race equality action team (REACT), led the review with a view to better understanding issues facing staff and students and exploring how race equality could be improved.
We have had some difficult conversations, and this difficulty reflects the size and the importance of the tasks facing us – Dr Allan Laville
They began with an active listening phase – a series of online focus group sessions – from which came several key findings:
- The value placed on the sense of belonging within the university community, among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff and students.
- The negative impact of microaggressions and subtle patterns of racial bias.
- A lack of confidence in university procedures for dealing appropriately with racial harassment.
- A lack of racial literacy around white privilege.
- The importance of collective responsibility for equality, diversity and inclusion within the university.
The university also invited staff and students to participate in a survey on race equality which suggested that white staff and students “underestimate or are unaware of the challenges faced by” their BAME peers.
The review also notes that the university set itself race equality targets in 2016 to achieve by 2020, but that “many of these targets have regrettably not been met”.
Responsibility for equality, diversity and inclusion across our organisation must not fall to minority groups alone – Professor Parveen Yaqoob
The Race Equality Review makes 20 recommendations to ensure fairer and more equal treatment for all staff and students, which the university says it is committed to delivering within the next two years.
- Student recruitment: diversifying the student ambassador teams to include more BAME and more male student ambassadors and including a diversity and inclusion element in ambassador training.
- Development of a programme to decolonise the curriculum.
- Establishing a structure to eliminate the awarding gap between white and BAME students. This is currently 8.4% – in 2019/20, 83.6% of BAME students attained a first of 2:1, compared to 92% of white students.
- Mandatory diversity and inclusion (D&I) and allyship training for staff, as well as BAME leadership programmes.
- Anti-racist training (including training on white privilege and white fragility) for staff and students.
- Understanding the university’s links to colonialism and slavery.
“The Race Equality Review is a comprehensive overview of where the University of Reading is on its journey towards racial equality,” said Dr Laville.
“It also sets out a vision for the future and how we can do better as an organisation for our staff and students. This will, of course, take time but we are committed to making significant progress on all twenty recommendations within the next two years.
“Bringing this Review together during a global pandemic has been a huge effort and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved, especially to those who came forward to share their experiences with us. We have had some difficult conversations, and this difficulty reflects the size and the importance of the tasks facing us.”
Professor Yaqoob said: “As an institution we recognise that failings have been made in the past, such as targets on representation, promotions and student attainment set in 2016, which have still not been met. We have now set out clear lines of accountability for each recommendation and progress on these will be reported to the university’s diversity and inclusion advisory board.
“We recognise that we must come together as a community to tackle racial inequality. Responsibility for equality, diversity and inclusion across our organisation must not fall to minority groups alone. The Review sets out what more can be done at a team level and an individual level, so I call on all my colleagues to play their part. We must do better, and we will.”
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