The Updated Race Equality Charter is a sector-led charter that higher education institutions voluntarily participate in to advance race equality, with the aim of improving the representation, experiences, progression and success of staff and students from racially minoritised ethnic groups. It covers all aspects of an institution’s activity and communities, including considering the representation and experiences of academic and research staff; professional, technical and operational staff; and students at all levels.
The Charter supports institutions to undertake an assessment of their context, identify priority issues, and design and implement actions to advance race equality autonomously and flexibly. Advance HE provides and manages the Charter infrastructure on behalf of the sector and our members.
Established with the UK higher education sector in 2015 to support and recognise commitment to tackling racial inequalities, the Race Equality Charter model – along with the Athena Swan Charter for gender equality – has been adopted by higher education institutions around the world to drive transformative change.
In July 2023, the Race Equality Charter was updated following recommendations from an independent review and consultation with the sector, with strategic oversight and advice from its Race Equality Charter Governance Committee.
By design, the Charter does not prescribe, so it must be flexible; it must be clear and applicable; and it must be both streamlined yet rigorous. It can do none of these without the ‘voice’ of the sector and you as Charter members to shape it. I would therefore like to thank all those who have participated in the consultations and shaping the Updated REC Charter.''
Alison Johns, Chief Executive Officer – Advance HE
The Updated Race Equality Charter – July 2023
Our aims in updating the Charter framework are to support applicants to achieve their race equality priorities. The update ensures the Charter is flexible to the applicant’s context, provides clarity and alignment so that all applicants understand what’s needed at different stages of the process. The update streamlines the framework so that it remains robust and reliable in the face of the fluctuating demands on a universities’ time and resources.
The Updated Race Equality Charter:
- provides a new structure for applicants with clear alignment to the award criteria;
- provides greater flexibility to focus on what is important in the applicant’s context;
- reduces the data requirements by a third;
- creates structure and space to help applicants demonstrate higher-level criteria, including faculty involvement and progress/impact;
- streamlines the renewal process to allow applicants to focus on progress.
Advance HE’s Equality Charters are member-led frameworks, shaped by and accountable to the member institutions which commit to the shared principles of equality, diversity and inclusion. We have centred members’ input and feedback throughout the process of updating the Race Equality Charter framework, including through engagement events and the invaluable contributions and oversight of the Race Equality Charter Governance Committee.
Equality Charters and Freedom of Speech consultation
As part of the update to the Race Equality Charter, Academic Freedom and Freedom of Speech are now explicitly referenced in the Charter, and Advance HE will be publishing new guidance for institutions in early autumn. This provides a mechanism to support universities so that Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom can be appropriately considered and embedded through the Charter.
Guiding Principles of the Race Equality Charter
The Race Equality Charter is underpinned by five fundamental guiding principles.
Racism is an everyday facet of UK society and racial inequalities may manifest themselves in everyday situations, processes, and behaviours. Racial disparities are a critical issue in outcomes for staff and students, recognising that racial inequalities are not necessarily overt, isolated incidents.
The UK higher education sector will not reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of the whole population and until individuals from all ethnic backgrounds can benefit equally from the opportunities it affords.
In tackling racial inequalities, it is important that actions are aimed at achieving transformational and long-term institutional culture change, avoiding a deficit model where actions are aimed at changing the individual.
Staff and students from racially minoritised ethnic backgrounds are not a homogeneous group. People from different ethnic backgrounds have different experiences of, and outcomes from and within, higher education, and that complexity needs to be considered in analysing data, developing solutions, and implementing actions.
Embracing intersectionality, from analysing data to developing actions, can better support institutions to tackle racism within the higher education sector.
The first step for a higher education institution interested in the REC is to consider the principles, and to decide if they can agree to these commitments together with their senior leadership teams and communities.
Any applications for a Race Equality Charter Award will need to first submit confirmation from the Vice-Chancellor (or equivalent) that they commit to the Charter Principles. You can find a template letter on our website, and once confirmed, you will receive a co-signed certificate which you can use to help promote your race equality work to your community.
Applying for a Race Equality Charter award
Advance HE Membership provides access to the Race Equality Charter. Once your institution is a member you can then apply for an institutional Race Equality Charter award.