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Advance HE welcomes the Race Equality Charter Review Phase 2 report

10 Mar 2021 | Advance HE Douglas Oloyede consultants publish their findings on the impact and process of the Race Equality Charter (REC)

Advance HE welcomes the report from Douglas Oloyede consultants as part of the planned review of the REC, which adds substantially to the evidence base informing the future development of the Charter. 

Regular reviews of the REC have been enshrined in its aims since the Charter was launched in 2015. It is a framework for institutions to self-reflect on institutional and cultural barriers for fair opportunity for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME)  staff and students. The 2020-21 review provides the opportunity to ensure the Charter remains as effective as possible for the higher education and research community. 

For this phase of the review, Douglas Oloyede researchers explored the experiences of award-holders, applicants, and REC signatories. The findings from the interviews and survey work show:   

  • consensus that the Charter’s self-assessment approach provides a structure and robust evidence base to guide an institution’s race equality work 

  • recognition by participants that the data requirements, though extensive, are needed for enabling identification of the racial inequalities to be addressed 

  • the REC Survey – a mandatory part of a REC application – was found to be useful by the majority of respondents, especially in relation to enabling identification of actions and interventions for their action plan. 

 As a relatively ‘young’ Charter it is too early to fully measure its impact, though the report found that among the institutions who have held a REC award since 2015-16, the majority reported increases in the proportions of academic, professional and support staff and undergraduate students identifying as BAME, with the most dramatic changes seen to reduction of the degree awarding gap between white and BAME students for ‘good degrees’ (1st/2:1s). There were also positive changes to overall representation of BAME students among postgraduate students. Furthermore, among institutions who have held REC awards for a shorter time, and REC members who do not yet have an award, there was evidence of progress being made on addressing racial inequalities. (1)

The Phase 2 report, coupled with the previous independent work undertaken by Dr Nicola Rollock in Phase 1 [see below], provides Advance HE valuable understanding of what aspects of the Charter should be explored and developed further to ensure REC members are best supported in their race equality efforts. These include how best Advance HE: 

  • supports member institutions to foster a greater understanding of race and racism, and how structural inequalities manifest in higher education 

  • provides greater support and additional resources for institutions considering joining the Charter 

  • offers more support to members prior to their submission of an award application, including support for effective action planning 

  • revises and enhances the processes of the Charter to streamline and facilitate members’ experiences. 

Kathryn Harrison-Graves, Advance HE Director for Membership and Accreditation, said, “This report is extremely welcome and we are very grateful for the input of everyone who took part in the Phase 2 consultation. A great strength of the REC is that it is tailored for and by the higher education sector, and the insight gained from colleagues’ experiences with the Charter will be invaluable to shaping its future. 

“We are keen to ensure that the sector’s voice remains at the heart of REC’s future development, and are happy to announce the creation of a new REC Governance Committee, to inform and oversee the ongoing and future development of the Charter.

“It’s never been more important to ensure the sector is effectively supported to address racial inequalities, as evidenced by the depressing data in the recent HESA staff statistics report. Though it is encouraging this year to see a renewed energy, determination and commitment in the sector to drive out racism and discrimination, galvanised by a world-wide condemnation of racial injustice. The REC is an excellent framework to help that work; but it is just the beginning, it’s using it and the action that follows that really matters.” 

The next steps for the review include a dissemination event, 4 May 2021, to explore the findings of the review and a series of roundtable events to gather feedback from colleagues across the sector on the findings and recommendations of the review.

The Race Equality Charter Review Phase 2 report 

We invite and welcome your participation in the development of REC: find out more about the up-coming review dissemination event and recruitment to the new REC Governance Committee 

  • Douglas Oloyede consultants are highly experienced equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) consultants and researchers. They have significant experience of reviewing and evaluating HE sector initiatives with specific knowledge of race equality. They have worked on projects for NUS Scotland, HEFCW, UKRI & The British Science Association

  • Phase 1 of the review, led by Dr Nicola Rollock, was completed in 2019. Dr Rollock is a specialist in racial justice in education and the workplace. The first part of the review was an independent initial review of previous submissions to look at components making up successful applications and common areas for improvement. Key findings from Phase 1 include: 

    • The REC usefully provides an important set of principles aimed at underpinning the work carried out by members including the survey about the views and experiences of their BAME populations but more support is needed to shape understanding of race. 

    • More work is needed to support institutions understand race and racism which can then enable them to work proactively to eliminate racial disparities and improve the success and outcomes of BAME staff and students.   

    • Data is being collated in a conceptual vacuum with a lack of understanding or engagement of how race and racism operate resulting in actions lacking specificity, ambition and rigour. 

    • A lack of focus on activities and initiatives aimed at white staff and leaders, and the ways in which structural inequalities manifest and remain embedded and perpetuated through processes and policies (focusing on systems of white privilege and power which are central to improving racial justice). 

These recommendations remain key to shaping the overall development of REC. We have already delivered ‘Introduction to race equality’ sessions to our panelists (many of whom are on their own university REC self-assessment teams) and have offered more exploratory sessions on how racism manifests in higher education. We are planning to embed more webinars and events to support the understanding of race into our suite of support for REC partici. 

  • REC members: There are now 79 institutional REC members, 17 of which are award holders. Advance HE supports members through networking events, good practice events and award ceremonies to recognise award holder’s achievements 

Find out more about Advance HE's work to support institutions to tackle inequalities and implement strategies to promote and enhance equality across all protected characteristics. 


Leading Race Equality in HE workshops Explore the history, context and current race equality challenges that universities need to address, as well as approaches that have been employed to tackle racial inequalities in HE on one of our Leading Race Equality in HE workshops.

Advance HE is focussed on advancing equality and eliminating discrimination and as a consequence regularly refers to the barriers and discrimination faced by minority ethnic groups. For our data and research to be relevant and useful, we adopt BAME as a commonly used term to ensure consistency with other public bodies and to benchmark against their data. However, we are aware of its limitations and try wherever possible to put information in context or disaggregate the data where relevant.

(1) Updated 15 March 2021.


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