Westminster Higher Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Addressing racial discrimination and improving the ethnic minority experience in Higher Education

Morning, Monday, 30th November 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will focus on tackling racial discrimination and improving the ethnic minority experience in higher education - looking at developing an inclusive HE curriculum, campus culture and addressing student complaints.

The background:

It follows the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) Racial harassment in higher education inquiry, which looked at the current state of equality in UK HE, the nature of harassment experienced by students, and how universities manage complaints.

We are pleased to include a keynote address from the David Isaac, Chair of the Commission at the time of the inquiry, and current Chair of Governors at the University of the Arts London.

The discussion at a glance:

Examining progress and remaining steps in implementing the Commission’s key recommendations which included:

  • scrutiny - ensuring universities provide adequate transparency and protection for students, and the monitoring for each university’s practices
  • reporting and redress - availability and accessibility of appropriate mechanisms, including:
    • utilising data - its role in developing a culture of trust built on learning and improvement
    • standards - what effective action means in practice
  • university culture - developing strategies for change:
    • leadership - setting expectations and policies, and securing change
    • effective oversight - of staff, procedures and practices
    • training - to support development of an environment that is free from discrimination and is conducive to positive relations within the university

Tackling racial harassment on campus: we must do better - delegates will also look at the work of Universities UK’s Expert Advisory Group led by Professor David Richardson, Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia, which is due to publish new guidance for universities in the autumn.

Key areas for discussion:

Complaints, support structures and disciplinary processes

  • reporting racial discrimination - looking at how HEIs can ensure that complaints procedures and support structures are simple and accessible
    • this follows concerns from some students that, whilst universities often produced statements supporting Black Lives Matter, they have sometimes been slow to respond to complaints
  • codes of behaviour and disciplinary policies - improving clarity and providing updates,  particularly ensuring that investigation process and sanctions are consistent and fair, and set out clearly

The experience of ethnic minority students and staff

  • course content and the learning environment - how institutions can develop outward-facing curricula, greater inclusivity, and more culturally-competent support services
    • it comes with a recent report from the Higher Education Policy Institute Miseducation: decolonising curricula, culture and pedagogy in UK universities calling for:
      • expansion of the curriculum, and teaching and learning content - with the prioritisation of decolonisation
      • ethnic minority research and scholarships - increasing government funding
      • tackling discrimination and unconscious bias - with a focus on when it is targeted at those working on decolonisation-related research
  • recruitment - progress made in introducing unconscious bias training for staff involved in promotion and hiring decisions, and for those making decisions regarding academic publishing
  • equality in career development - addressing the barriers to progression faced by ethnic minority academics, and the steps that universities can take to create a more ethnically diverse workforce
    • this follows the publication of research from the UCU which indicates ethnic minority staff are paid less than their white counterparts and are less likely to be in senior positions

Equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives and improving campus culture

  • ethical and legal obligations - including university and student union policies on restricting hate speech while protecting free expression and improving campus culture
  • leadership - taking responsibility for setting expectations and driving change
    • for example by appointing a Pro-Vice Chancellor dedicated to equality and diversity, and ensuring that university reputation is put ahead of protecting staff and students
  • inclusion and empowerment - working with students and staff on creating a culturally healthy campus environment, ensuring that staff feel able to implement policy to tackle discrimination, and developing a sense of belonging throughout institutions that supports academic outcomes

The agenda:

  • Developing effective policy frameworks for addressing racism within HE
  • Priorities for developing an inclusive HE curriculum and understanding the nature of racism within the sector
  • Improving racial equality within HE - the curriculum, research funding, recruitment training, and addressing the attainment and pay gap
  • Complying and aligning with the Race Equality Charter
  • Initiatives for improving diversity, inclusion, equality, and campus culture - developing a whole university approach, widening participation, and supporting awareness
  • Best practice in handling student complaints - duty of care, staff training, and managing reporting data

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by BEIS; the Cabinet Office; the Department of Education; the Department of International Trade; the Government Office for Science; and UKRI.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament and officials from BEIS, DfE and other Government departments and agencies, university and college leaders; academics and other higher education professionals; representatives from students’ unions; businesses and their advisors; mental health and race equality charities; law firms; consultancies; advice groups; police representatives, interest groups and the voluntary sector; along with commentators and reporters from the national and specialist media.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Keynote Speakers

David Isaac

Chair of Governors, University of the Arts London and Former Chair, Equality and Human Rights Commission

Professor Kehinde Andrews

Professor of Black Studies, Birmingham City University

Alison Johns

Chief Executive Officer, Advance HE


Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP

Member, Women and Equalities Committee


Howard Chae

BME Officer, Cambridge University Students’ Union

Dr Dominik Jackson-Cole

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Trainer, SOAS University of London

Ellie Mulcahy

Head of Research, The Centre for Education and Youth

Dr Zainab Khan

Pro Vice-Chancellor, Outcomes and Inclusion, London Metropolitan University

Professor Tara Dean

Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, University of Brighton

Dr Jason Arday

Assistant Professor of Sociology, Department of Sociology, Durham University

Max Kafula

BAME Students’ Officer, Lancaster University Students’ Union

Professor Randall Whittaker

Pro Vice-Chancellor, Academic, Leeds Arts University

James Harris

President, Union of Jewish Students

Georgina Calvert-Lee

Head of UK Practice and Senior Counsel, McAllister Olivarius

Sherrie Smith

Research Assistant, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Engagement, Buckinghamshire New University