University of the Arts London publishes anti-racism action plan

The first initiative from the anti-racism plan is a pledge that BAME employees will constitute at least 30% of UAL staff within three years

University of the Arts London (UAL) has published an anti-racism action plan, including a pledge that BAME employees will constitute at least 30% of total staff by 2024.

At the moment, the figure is 23.13%; relatively high when set against a national average of 14.5%, but lower than the average of 27.9% BAME staff across London HEIs.

First instigated as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement, the action plan was drafted following “comprehensive” consultation with staff and students.

“The 30% target means that our workforce will look like our student body – certainly for the first time since we became a university in 2004 and perhaps longer,” said James Purnell, president and vice-chancellor of UAL.

“[We] know that our overall ethnic diversity stands at 23%, but there is significant variation between different parts of UAL – for example, academic staff diversity is much lower than for our professional services staff. Our first goal for the target was that it should incentivise all parts of the university to act.”

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Given that ‘university staff’ and ‘academic staff’ might sometimes be thought synonymous, Purnell’s delineating between the two is of key importance when it comes to underlining the overwhelmingly white face of teaching at UK universities.

As we reported in January, the latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) reveal that, of 22,810 professors recorded in the UK, only 155 (1%) were black.

Although there is a tiny margin for error in those figures – it omits many professors, such as department heads, who Hesa count under more senior job titles – there is no such ambiguity in those classified as ‘senior academics’; out of a total of 6,065, just 50 are black.

“To be able to call ourselves anti-racist, we must deliver enduring change, grounded in the experience of students, alumni and staff, in academic insight, and in our data,” added Purnell. “From our anti-racism action plan will flow demanding targets and measurable commitments.

“We acknowledge that successful delivery of the plan will mean significant change, not only to our systems and processes but also to our culture. We will ensure we have the right resources in place to enable us to make effective and sustainable progress as we work together to create a university which can truly be described as anti-racist.”

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