Westminster Higher Education Forum

For booking-related queries or information on speaking please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk, or contact us: +44 (0)1344 864796.

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

December 2020

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***
This conference focuses on next steps for tackling racial discrimination affecting both students and staff in higher education.

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 conference is bringing stakeholders together with key policy officials who are due to attend from BEIS; DfE; UKRI; the Cabinet Office; DIT; the Government Office for Science; and the Home Office.

The discussion at a glance:

  • 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
  • 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
  • Tackling racial harassment on campus: we must do better - Universities UK’s Expert Advisory Group led by Professor David Richardson which is due to publish new guidance for universities

The background:

The seminar follows the EHRC Tackling racial harassment: Universities challenged inquiry which found that around a quarter of ethnic minority students had experienced racial harassment since starting their university course and made recommendations for universities on:

  • transparency - in how they are tackling harassment and provide safe spaces for students and staff
  • complaints procedures - ensuring are effective, accessible and inclusive
  • culture and leadership - senior leaders should take steps to better understand racial harassment and embed its elimination into their institution’s culture and practice

It also comes with the recent publication Effectiveness in implementation of access and participation plan reform, an independent report commissioned by the Office for Students evaluating implementation of access and participation plan reform by universities, which found that:

  • universities are more aware of the diverse range of student groups within a university
  • many universities are increasingly take steps to engage with specific groups including ethnic minority students and implement broad initiatives to support them in both academic and non-academic areas

Delegates will discuss remaining issues and priorities for building on progress, as well as specific examples of good practice highlighted by the OfS including approaches to culture change and programmes to improve the progression of ethnic minority students.

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 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
    • it also comes with the BBC reporting research indicating that black, Asian and minority ethnic PhD applicants are less likely to be offered places to study for a PhD than white applicants
  • outcomes - helping ethnic minority graduates tackle barriers to employment and have fulfilling employment opportunities
    • this comes with Higher education outcomes: How career satisfaction among graduates varies by ethnicity - a recent HESA data release indicating that black graduates are less likely to report that they are satisfied to their career compared to their white peers

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
  • Funding competition to improve access and participation for black, Asian and minority ethnic groups in postgraduate research study - £8m project funding by the OfS and Research England

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
  • Embedding student voice in developing a whole university approach to race equality
  • Improving racial equality within HE - the curriculum, research funding, recruitment training, and addressing the attainment and pay gap
  • The Race equality Charter: a framework for transforming culture
  • 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 Legal Department; the Government Office for Science; the Home Office; and UKRI. Also due to attend are representatives from African Women Lawyers Association; Association of Commonwealth Universities; Black Solicitors Network; BPP University; Edge Hill University; Epigeum - part of Oxford University Press; Friends, Families and Travellers; Keele University; King's College London; King's College London Student Union; Leigh Day; Liverpool John Moores University; PA; Queen Mary University of London; Sheffield Hallam University; Stop Hate UK; Sunderland university; The Open University; Truro and Penwith College; University of Hertfordshire; University of Lincoln; University of Portsmouth Students' Union; University of the Arts London and University of York.

A press pass has been reserved by a representative from Bonhill Group.

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

This pack includes

  • Dropbox video recording of the conference
  • PDF transcript of the discussion, including all speaker remarks and Q&A
  • PDFs of speakers' slide material (subject to permission)
  • PDFs of the delegate pack, including speaker biographies and attendee list
  • PDFs of delegate articles