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The journey to developing the Race Equality Charter

07 Apr 2022 | Focus of the development is on streamlining the REC, supporting members, engaging the sector and being led by impact.

The story so far

During the past year, work to develop the Race Equality Charter (REC) has really ramped up. There are now 95 Advance HE institutional members signed up to the Charter holding 21 Bronze awards between them and several institutions are working towards the first Silver awards. We are in the discovery and design process for extending the REC to research institutes, small and specialist institutions and higher education (HE) colleges.

Two independent reviews were published as part of the first and second phases of the review.  The first was led by Professor Nicola Rollock in 2019 and the second by Douglas Oloyede Consultants in 2021, both of which have provided stimulus to undertake development of the REC. The reviews highlighted areas of where the Charter has had significant impact, and where opportunities to further strengthen and improve the framework to cultivate a more meaningful journey to race equality in HE. For example, the independent reviews identified increases in the representation of communities racialised as Black, Asian and minority ethnic in higher education have been noted at key points of the student and staff journey, and evidence that some institutions which participated in the review have seen a “dramatic change… in the reduction of the degree awarding gap between White and Black, Asian and minority ethnic students for ‘good degrees’ ”. The independent reviews also highlight critical areas for development in addressing and tackling anti-Blackness and increasing engagement and uptake of the REC at an institutional level.

To assist Advance HE in this important work to develop the Charter, in October 2021 we convened the REC Governance Committee, comprising sector leaders to help the REC navigate its development and chaired by Pradeep Passi (Director of Equality, Diversity & Inclusion at University of Central Lancashire) and Professor David Richardson (Vice-Chancellor and President of University of East Anglia). The support for the Charter from leaders in HE has been incredible, reaffirming its position across the sector.

As the REC grows, Advance HE has also supported the growth of the REC team to better support our members’ journeys with the REC framework to advancing race equality, with the addition of Precious Ogbonna (Project Manager), Thahmina Begum (Lead Executive), and Diana Piscitelli (Charter Assessment Manager). We are in the process of recruiting two new Senior Advisors to join the team soon.

Through investing and building up our community of members, we have hosted REC review events with fantastic attendance from across the sector and received great engagement with the review recommendations. Our network events have discussed everything from race equality action to the REC principles. The most recent event to share good practice took place on 29 March focusing on all aspects of data and analysis for REC applications. Upcoming events include a REC Criteria Deep-Dive workshop on 21 April.

We have been meeting with Self-Assessment Teams across the UK to provide guidance and coaching, aiding their success towards an award. We have launched the Mid-Term Review Pilot, a new member benefit for institutions and piloting a coaching framework for institutions who have submitted for an award.

Alongside some of these member benefits, we are supporting REC members with our offer to extend the award length from three to five years allowing more time for institutions to better prepare their data and evidence impact and learning from their actions. More support, guidance and resources will be provided to teams in the near future as part of the development. 

The REC webpages have been updated to make them easier to navigate, including the sections on frequently asked questions (FAQs), future panel round dates and registering to becoming a panel member or observer. Member resources such as application form, handbook, surveys and application specific FAQs are now accessible for download via Advance HE Connect in the Race Equality Charter Members' Network.

Charter development 

Development of the Race Equality Charter is approaching the end of the second quarter of the project’s lifespan. Quarter Two focused on the Principles, Criteria, Application requirements and Application process.

The Governance Committee held their first meeting in early December 2021 which included a discussion of the project plan and development, and the current plan phases and feedback.

The Committee met again on 1 February 2022 to review the terminology of the principles, the current criteria and the inclusion of the student voice. 

In the third meeting on 22 March 2022, the Committee discussed the inclusion of the student voice to the development of the REC, extrinsic motivators for the REC and increasing our liaison efforts with learned societies within the sector.

Co-Chair Professor David Richardson said, “Institutional racism in higher education is not just for those suffering from the injustices to deal with, it is for the whole university to tackle, and work to dismantle it must be led by the Vice-Chancellor.

“The Race Equality Charter Governance Committee has an important role to play in helping to guide the development of the Charter and deliver this culture change. As Co-Chair of the Committee, I am confident the Charter is on the right track to remove the barriers for racialised minorities to succeed in higher education.”

Co-Chair Pradeep Passi said, “The REC Governance Committee has vital work to do that will further develop and enhance the Charter. The improved Charter will build on the framework to support institutional and sector change, breaking down racial inequalities for the benefit of students, staff and communities.

“As Co-Chair of the Committee, I am confident the right processes are being put in place to enable the Charter to tackle and drive out racism in higher education.”

We are currently exploring and generating feedback to finalise the REC principles and criteria and recommendations for streamlining the application process and peer-review, providing enhanced guidance for Self-Assessment Teams; reviewing the REC staff and student survey to begin the third phase of development in April. The launch of the revised Charter is expected in July.  

We recognise the challenges in doing this work, and are working towards supporting higher education institutions utilising and embedding the Race Equality Charter principles and framework, to enact long-term institutional culture change.

"As we currently develop the Race Equality Charter, led by the recommendations made by each of the reviews, we are working with expert sector leaders who form our Governance Committee to help us to ensure that the future of the REC delivers a development that will lead to a more streamlined process, supportive journey, continuous engagement and demonstrable impact.”

Dr Arun Verma, Head of the REC

REC Criteria Deep-Dive workshop

In line with the ongoing development of the Race Equality Charter, following the Phase 1 and 2 reviews of the Charter, the REC team are hosting a deep-dive session to encourage members within the sector to share their thoughts on improvements to the clarity and guidance of the current REC criteria. 

Hosted by Head of REC Dr Arun Verma and REC Project Manager Precious Ogbonna, the session will provide members with an opportunity to take part in a scoping analysis for the inclusion of a REC Gold award. 

The session will take place 21 April, 14:00 - 15:30 BST and is open to all REC members, regardless of where they sit on their REC award journey. Find out more and book your place.


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