London Metropolitan University: ‘Black and minoritised voices will be at the table at every level’

London Metropolitan University aims to increase the proportion of black and minority ethnic academic staff at every level to 55% in five years.

London Metropolitan University (LMU) has committed to spending £15 million over the next five years as part of its Race Equity Strategy

The university will increase the proportion of academic staff, senior managers and board members from Black and minoritised (BME) backgrounds to 55% by January 2025, it said in a statement. This figure is in line with the racial composition of Greater London, according to figures drawn from the 2011 census. 

According to 2019/20 figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), around 22% of the LMU academic staff are from BME backgrounds. The 55% target includes senior and early career academic staff, senior managers and the governing board and associated committees.

“Black and minoritised voices will be at the table at every level of the institution,” the university vowed, as it pledged to address the ‘broken pipeline’ in the promotion process.  

[T]here is a lack of representation in senior academic roles and non-academic leadership roles in the university
– Prof Lynn Dobbs, vice-chancellor

‘Black History Month’ throughout the year

The university has pledged to decolonise academic practices with its Education for Social Justice framework. It expects academics to co-design curricula with students, introduce a “spine” of Black and racial studies modules for “all students” and “rethink, reframe and reconstruct” curricula and research that maintains a “Europe-centred lens”. 

LMU will celebrate Black History throughout the year, as opposed to during one month, it said. The university will host annual conferences for the wider academic community that address the experience of BME students. 

In a bid to develop “racially literate professionals”, the university expects all academic staff to have undertaken ‘inclusive behaviours training’ by September 2021. Board and senior managers will undertake “a rolling programme” of race equality training. 

The university will eradicate the non-continuation gap between BME and white students by 2025 and reduce the degree-awarding gap to 10% by 2025 – although the university hopes to achieve 5% within that timeframe. Statistics collected by the Hesa covering the 2017/18 academic year showed that LMU had the largest disparity between the proportion of white and BME students achieving a first of any university in England (25.1%). 

The university will launch an ‘equity dashboard’, updated to include the latest statistics on its progress.

Other targets 

  • The annual publication of a race compendium.
  • The university will achieve bronze Race Equality Charter status by 2024. 
  • Develop qualitative evaluation methods to assess changes “to the lived experience” of staff and students.

Prof Lynn Dobbs, vice-chancellor of LMU admitted the university had “some work to do to achieve our goals”.

She continued: “Our degree-awarding gap is too stark and whilst our proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic staff is growing, there is a lack of representation in senior academic roles and non-academic leadership roles in the university. 

“But we are changing.”

The LMU vice-chancellor said the university would not “lose our commitment to this agenda”, adding: “This strategy is very important to us. It puts into print the hard targets that we need to achieve so we can better support the communities that we are so proud to work with.” 

Dr Zainab Khan, LMU pro-vice-chancellor for teaching and learning, said the university “aspires to be anti-racist”. 

“There remains a litany of challenges hampering the advancement of race equity in higher education […] These are all symptoms of institutional racism and we must take responsibility for rooting out practices which uphold racist systems.

“Our strategic plan will tackle systemic barriers, both seen and unseen, and replace them with structural and culture change. Our ambition is to engage everyone in the practice of anti-racism and for us to respond to the nuanced challenges facing different racialised communities. The real test will be if Black and minoritised members of our community see and feel the change.” 

The university last year founded the London Metropolitan Centre for Equity and Inclusion, which will act as a “driving force behind the university’s pedagogy, student experience and workplace culture”.

Read more: Decolonisation is not ‘censorship’, says professor

Related news: UK universities do not acknowledge problem of Islamophobia on campuses, report says

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