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Race Equality Charter FAQs: Covid-19

The answers to some frequently asked questions about Covid-19 to the Race Equality charter.

Timings and extensions

Due to the impact of Covid-19, we don’t think we’re going to be ready to submit on time, what can we do? 

We understand the significant pressures institutions are under due to Covid-19 and we are here to support you. If you anticipate that you will be unable to submit your application to your current deadline, please contact racecharter@advance-he.ac.uk  

We are implementing a rolling submission deadline for the February 2021 round. Institution applying in this round can choose to submit their applications anytime between the 18th of Feb and the 16th of April 2021 or to defer their submission to the July 2021 round. For the July 2021 round, Institutions can choose to submit anytime from the 22nd of July to the 17th September 2021 or defer their submission to the next round. Institution deferring a round will not be required to update their data or narrative beyond what would have been required for their initial round. If you are planning on submitting an application in either of these rounds, please contact racecharter@advance-he.ac.uk to assist us with organising a peer review assessment of your submission. Please note, you will still need to submit an intention to submit form in May for the July 2021 round to confirm that you wish to go ahead with the submission and enable us to schedule your application for a panel.

Submissions

Do we need to address Covid-19 in our submission? 

There is no requirement to address Covid-19 in your submission. However, the race equality charter is a context specific self-assessment of race equality in your institution. Therefore, we recommend your self-assessment team consider how the Covid-19 outbreak is affecting race equality in your institution. For example, if you are still planning your consultation, it may be beneficial to your race equality work to capture feedback from BAME staff and students on the impact of Covid-19 through additional survey questions or focus groups, or other forms of consultation. You may also want to check if your consultation or quantitative data suggest that Covid-19 is impacting race equality in your institution and plan future action/(s) to assess and/or address the impact of Covid-19 on your institution.

Research to date have shown that BAME people are more likely to suffer and die from Covid-19 in the UK. The racial impacts of Covid-19 in higher education institutions are still emerging. However, several issues are starting to come to light – for instance, decisions around furloughing staff, non-renewal of fixed term contracts, redundancies, voluntary severance, promotions and recruitment –are likely to impact negatively on BAME staff representation and progression. For BAME students, early negative impact of Covid-19 includes financial hardship, lack of access to learning/ teaching/research equipment or attainment gaps that may arise from using new forms of assessment, reduced sense of belonging and increased difficulty with mental health. Not to be forgotten is the additional impact on BAME staff and students well-being during the same period of time due to the murder of George Floyd and the resulting Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests.

How a university approaches challenges like these in their REC application will depend on their own specific context (size, staff and student profile etc.) but also what stage of the application process you are at. For example, if an applicant completed their consultation work prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, there won't be an expectation that data reported addresses race equality challenges related to Covid-19. However, you may still wish to consider future action to assess the impact of Covid-19 on your university.

We are therefore offering a 750-word extension to the application word limit for institutions to consider the impact of Covid-19 and their response to BLM. These words can be used to discuss practical impacts on the self-assessment process (e.g. format and timing of SAT meetings and/or membership; consultation methodologies; resourcing changes), on action plan implementation, or to address race equality impacts of Covid-19 and BLM more broadly (e.g. publication outputs). Applicants can use the additional words in a single section (e.g. ‘further information’) or throughout the application form. As normal, word counts should be indicated in square brackets at the end of each section. The additional words are available to all applicants and therefore there is no need to apply for permission.

Covid-19 has impacted our self-assessment (e.g. staff consultation), what can we do? 

Advance HE recognises that self-assessment teams may experience practical challenges as a result of Covid-19; for example, delayed work plans or SAT meetings, or uncertain or altered budgets that effect action planning or resourcing changes. Aspects of the self-assessment process may also be impacted, such as inability to run focus groups as planned, or a poorer staff survey response rate than expected. Some of these challenges may be overcome as your institution adjusts to working within the parameters of the Covid-19 restrictions. SAT meetings could be moved online and, depending on the topic and cohort of participants, focus groups and town hall meetings could also convene via online platforms. It may, however, be necessary for SATs to reconsider consultation methods; for example, selecting pulse surveys instead of longer surveys or focus groups. Where survey response rates have been poorer than expected, it may be necessary to leave the survey open for a longer period of time. You could also consider supplementing your survey results with one-to-one online interviews or pulse surveys or online polls. 

SATs may also have questions about how to develop effective actions in light of the evolving public health situation. We encourage applicants to plan actions based on the information currently available (e.g. recent consultation data; current projections of resources available to the institution). The action plan can then be adjusted accordingly as new information comes to light.

When it comes to preparing to renew or upgrade your award, you should feel assured that, in normal circumstances, it is necessary for many applicants to adjust and revise actions to ensure achievability and relevance.  If this is necessary, your narrative should provide rationale for your decision and provide an assessment of your progress.

The outbreak of Covid-19 has impacted our ability to make progress on our action plan or priorities, what can we do?  

The REC process understands action plans to be live organic documents, constantly reviewed and updated. This is because, even in normal circumstances, it is necessary for applicants to adjust and revise actions to ensure achievability and relevance. SATs are encouraged to evaluate action implementation as part of regular meetings and to revise action plans accordingly. For example, it may be necessary to make adjustments to timeframes and milestones or to revise an action to reflect online teaching and learning. Where new race equality challenges and opportunities have been identified, actions can be included in the action plan. As is typical in Bronze renewals and in applications for Silver, applicants are expected to reflect honestly on the progress and impact of their actions during the award period. Where progress has faltered, you should acknowledge this in the application narrative and set out a clear plan to address this.

Advance HE Support

What support is Advance HE offering REC applicants during Covid-19 restrictions?

The Charters Team can be contacted as normal via email racecharter@advance-he.ac.uk Enhancing Practice Events, networking meetings and remote development reviews will continue via online delivery.

The Charters Team and Advance HE are also working to produce events, advice and guidance that specifically tackles the challenges posed by Covid-19. These will be announced via our website and on Connect.

How will peer-review assessment panels meet given the restrictions?

Assessment panels are convening remotely with panellists submitting written feedback to Advance HE in advance of the panel meeting. This new process was used successfully for July 2020 applications.