UEA leads change in tackling racial harassment in higher education

Published by  Communications

On 24th Nov 2020

Vice-Chancellor Professor David Richardson

UEA Vice-Chancellor Professor David Richardson has fronted a university group that has published a set of recommendations designed to decisively tackle racial harassment in higher education in the UK.

The Universities UK (UUK) advisory group published a series of practical steps as part of their efforts to address racial inequality, informed by an in-depth consultation with panels of BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) students and staff with experience of racial harassment.

Led by VC Prof Richardson, UUK’s panel recommending the following steps that could be implemented immediately:

  • Publicly commit priority status to tackling racial harassment
  • Engage directly with students and staff with lived experience of racial harassment
  • Review current policies and procedures and develop new institution-wide strategies for tackling racial harassment
  • Improve awareness and understanding of racism, racial harassment, white privilege and microaggressions among all staff and students, including through anti-racist training
  • Ensure expected behaviours for online behaviour are clearly communicated to students and staff, as well as sanctions for breaches
  • Develop and introduce reporting systems for incidents of racial harassment
  • Collect data on reports of incidents and share regularly with senior staff and governing bodies

VC Richardson said: “It is my firm belief that UK universities perpetuate institutional racism. This is uncomfortable to acknowledge but all university leaders should do so as a first step towards meaningful change.

“Too often BAME students and staff have been failed. While they may have heard positive words, they have seen little action.

“That needs to change now. These recommendations are designed to help university leaders put words into action and tackle racial harassment. By embracing and embedding an anti-racist approach we can ensure that 2021 is the year we lead decisive and meaningful change, not just for our universities but for society as a whole.”

The new guidance was informed by a series of case studies of good practice in tackling racial inequality, with one of the examples coming from UEA’s Norwich Medical School (MED).

Norwich Medical School’s 2019 event discussed differential attainment and gave students the platform to share experiences, with the event generating a shared set of priorities of work for the School to address, including the launch of a School-wide staff and student BAME working group.

Led by Norwich Medical School’s Lead for Diversity and Inclusion, Dr Joanna Semlyen, and with vital input from two MED students who were employed as BAME ambassadors, the group prioritised two projects:

  1. A BAME mentoring scheme for junior medical students from a BAME background to provide them with one-to-one academic support and a safe space to discuss their experiences
  1. Bystander intervention training to be rolled out to all medical students and staff, using role play allowing students to practice speaking up on behalf of others in challenging situations and providing them with the environment to learn how intervene in situations of racial harassment

Both initiatives are proving to be highly successful within MED and have now been cited nationally as good practice within UUK’s collection of case studies in how universities can effectively tackle racial harassment.

You can read UUK's report on Tackling racial harassment in higher education report in full on their website.

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