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Tackling racism on campus: Raising awareness and creating the conditions for confident conversations

An Advance HE Project funded by SFC and led by an expert group of EDI practitioners, academics, tertiary education staff and students.

Project aim

To develop evidence based resources to be used by Scottish universities and colleges as they respond the findings highlighted in the EHRC inquiry report. 

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Background

In October 2019 the EHRC published its inquiry into racial harassment in publically funded universities in Great Britain. The EHRC report revealed that racial harassment was a common experience for students and staff. For example:

  • 24% of students from an ethnic minority background said they had experienced racial harassment; 1 in 20 students said racism had made them leave their studies.
  • More than a quarter of staff said they had experienced racist name-calling, insults and jokes; 3 in 20 said racial harassment caused them to leave their jobs.
  • Racial harassment can have a serious impact on an individual’s mental health and wellbeing.
  • The sector does not really understand the issue and staff lack confidence in dealing with race issues.
  • Most staff and students who have experienced racial harassment do not report it.
  • Many universities seriously underestimate the prevalence of racial harassment and are over-confident in their complaint handling processes.

The EHRC made a series of recommendations for the UK and devolved governments, funders, regulators and universities. This project will be part of a set of activities taken forward by SFC, Universities Scotland and the sector to address the EHRC recommendations.

The findings of the inquiry were discussed at a consultation event jointly hosted by the EHRC and SFC in October 2019. This event was supported by Universities Scotland and the Scottish Government.  

Participants provided feedback about issues that would benefit from being addressed by a collaborative approach. These issues did not relate specifically to the recommendations made by the EHRC. However, the issues raised were recognised as being required to tackle the root causes of racism and the types of harassment detailed in the EHRC report. The key themes that participants at the seminar raised included action to deliver resources that supported confident conversations. The most frequently mentioned issue, arising as a challenge and as an area for action, was the need to talk about race and the capacity building that would be required to facilitate honest, open and constructive conversations about race, racism and whiteness.

Project outcomes

A suite of resources grounded in evidence that institutions are able to use to:

  1. raise awareness of the impact of racism in all its forms (including micro aggressions).
  2. signpost staff and students to appropriate mechanisms to report racism.
  3. raise awareness of the institutional policy on racism and harassment more generally.
  4. provide institutional governance structures with the training and the tools to raise the awareness of racism.
  5. create safe spaces for discussions about difference and to facilitate constructive conversations about race, racism and whiteness..
  6. support conversations about rights and responsibilities within induction processes and student support.

These resources will be augmented by a blended learning toolkit that supports staff and students to have confident conversations about race and racism. The resources, design assets and toolkit will be designed in such away so that they can be augmented to support wider work to achieve inclusion and share practice.

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"We stand united against racism"

A landmark commitment from Scotland’s universities and colleges to support a declaration against racism. The declaration is endorsed by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science.

Find out more
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Steering group

Khadija Mohammed
Senior Lecturer, University of the West of Scotland (Chair)

Khadija Mohammed Picture FrameKhadija is a Senior Lecturer and a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy in the School of Education and Social Sciences. Her PhD centres on race equality by exploring the lived experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic teachers in Scotland with a focus on celebrating their cultural, linguistic and religious identities. Khadija is the co-founder and Chair of SAMEE. This is a community-led organisation providing support to educators and those in support and guidance roles across the Scottish Education system – nurseries, schools, colleges and universities. Khadija received the Scottish Trade Union Congress Equality Award in 2019. Khadija is the first BAME Muslim educator to be elected as the Vice-Convenor of the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS).

Publications:

 

Sukhi Bains
Head of Equality & Diversity, University of St Andrews

Sukhi is an EDI expert and has worked in the higher education sector for over 10 years. Sukhi mentors BAME employees working in the private financial sector on the ‘Prince’s Responsible Business Network’ programme. He co-chairs the University’s Race Equality Group (Race Charter SAT), reporting to the Principal’s Office; and is the first BAME staff member to be the head of a department at St Andrews. He has served for the last few years as Chair of SREN – The Scottish Race Equality Network run by Advance HE.

 

Barbara Becnel
PhD Student, University of Edinburgh

Barbara is an African American PhD student, with extensive activism in social justice issues. She has led a large non-profit social services agency in northern California. As a social justice activist, Barbara organized an international media campaign to try to prevent a judicial execution of a reformed black gang leader, who had co-authored (with her) nine award-winning anti-gang and anti-drugs books for young people. She has a great deal of expertise managing groups, seeking solutions for race-related problems, as well as generating media and public awareness for provocative issues and circumstances.

Publications:

 

Sue Clyne
Head of RH and OD, Edinburgh College

Sue is Head of RH & OD at Edinburgh College, and has had a career working both in the public and private sectors, largely in further education and two years at the University of Bristol. D&I has been her passion for many years and she has set up and chaired D&I Committees and Fora. At the University of Bristol she was involved with initiatives targeted at particular areas such as white privilege, unconscious bias and staff and students being able to log issues of micro-aggressions. She has found these initiatives to be more successful than traditional training models in raising awareness, provoking discussion and challenging culture.

 

Stephen Crowe
Assistant Director, Communications, Scottish Funding Council

Over the course of his career Stephen has been involved in marketing and communications for education, tourism and economic development. At the SFC he is involved in projects across the whole of the organisation’s portfolio, including research, innovation, skills, capital investments and widening access. Stephen grew up in Bradford, in an area rich in cultural diversity but also steeped in the frustrations and inequalities that eventually led to the Bradford riots. He is optimistic that the work being done through the Race Equality Project will help to confront complacency and make a more level playing field for everyone involved in further and higher education.

 

Naira Dar
EDI, Chair of the Scottish Minority Ethnic Women’s Network

In her current role as EDI Manager with the City of Glasgow College, Naira works to give a wider understanding of the impact of race within the college sector and the challenges that this brings. Naira is the Chair of the Scottish Minority Ethnic Women’s Network. As such she has advocated for representation of BME women in the work of the First Minister’s National Advisory Council. She is also Chair of the EDI Network run by Advance HE. Naira brings extensive knowledge and lived experiences across public and third sector organisations.

 

Jacqueline Fitzpatrick
ESOL Lecturer, Glasgow Kelvin College

Jacqueline Fitzpatrick has been working in the FE sector teaching English to Students of other Languages since 2004. Her first teaching job was in London at Waltham Forest College and she has been working at Glasgow Kelvin College (then North Glasgow College) since 2006. She has worked in a wide variety of other roles in the past – including immigration/ministry of agriculture, reception and admin, waitressing and retail, and care/community work. She has found that her experiences have enabled her to motivate students to realise their potential and see what's possible despite the many challenges they may face.

 

Adrian Lui
Equality and Diversity Advisor, Glasgow Caledonian University

Adrian Lui Picture FrameAs the lead for both staff and student equality and diversity issues, Adrian is responsible for implementing Equality Outcomes at GCU, assisting staff and students to contribute to a positive and inclusive working and learning environment, and providing operational and strategic support and guidance to all University functions. He has played a key part in developing the University’s work on race equality over the past 12 months. Prior to joining GCU in 2003, he held a number of roles in voluntary sector organisations, all specialising in race equality. Adrian holds an MA honours degree in Sociology, and an MPhil in Media and Culture, both from the University of Glasgow.

 

Monica Medina 
EDI, Forth Valley College, Falkirk

Monica Medina Picture FrameMonica has taught English in Secondary and Tertiary Education in the Americas, Asia and Europe. Throughout her teaching career she has had particular interest in breaking barriers to ensure education is relevant to the experience of the learners. In Scotland, she secured an MSc in Inclusive Education and taught young people with additional support needs in the FE sector. In her current role she is responsible for advising Forth Valley College on equality matters, training staff, and creating/revising policies to support all students. She is also a board member of SAMEE and a race equality activist.

 

Ibtihal Ramadan
AFHEA, CARA Postdoc Fellow, University of Edinburgh

Ibtihal is currently conducting research on Muslim academics working within Social Sciences and their experiences regarding contributing to constructive discussions and knowledge production about Muslims and Islam, as part of the decolonising the curriculum rationale. Ibtihal completed her PhD on the experience of Muslim academics within UK higher education. She found that most of her participants weren’t aware of the EDI activity at their universities, and that even senior colleagues reported incidents of Islamophobia. Many Muslim academics she has spoken to feel that it is a “waste of time” to try to report incidents of racism, and she hopes this project will be able to address this.

 

Eyram Selasie Ahadzie
Vice President, University of Strathclyde’s Students Union

Eyram is the Vice President Education at the University of Strathclyde Students Union and also International Student’s Rep for NUS Scotland Executive Committee. She sits on several national forums, such as the Student Partnerships in Quality Scotland (SPARQS) advisory board, the Scottish Race Equality Network (a network of Scottish HE and FE EDI practitioners representing institutions), and the Cross-Party Group for Racial Equality at the Scottish Parliament.

 

Sharan Virdee
Equality and Diversity Partner, Herriot Watt University

Sharan Virdee Picture FrameSharan has been working in and around the equality field for most of her working life, which is for about 20 years. She is an Edinburgh University graduate and has worked in local government before coming to the higher education sector in 2006. She is keen on true partnership approaches and building successful and outcome-focused joint work. She believes this is the only way to achieve tangible change.

 

Yujun Xu (June)
PhD Student, University of Edinburgh

Yujun Xu Picture FrameJune is a final year PhD student from Moray House School of Education and Sport, at the University of Edinburgh. Her research focuses on Intercultural Experiential Learning. She is passionate about intercultural learning, equality, inclusive environment and people's wellbeing in higher education (HE). From 2016 to 2020, she has been leading three funded projects to facilitate intercultural learning and understanding in HE.

Webinars

As part of the project we are hosting a series of webinars.

Disclaimer: The webinar series discuss race, racism and whiteness. The webinars are provided to inform the foundational work to improve racial literacy, historical and social contexts of racism, and to support critical conversations to enable confident discussions on the subject in universities, colleges and wider society. Please be advised that the content throughout the webinar series addresses race-based harm and strong terminology which may be deemed offensive.

25 June - Critical Conversation on Racism (part 1)

Khadija Mohammed and Barbara Becnel shared their experiences of racism and their thoughts on how we can embed system change in our society.

View the recording

23 July - Critical Conversation on Racism (part 2)

Khadija Mohammed (Chair) hosted conversations with EDI experts, including Monica Medina, who are leading each of the three work streams within the steering group. 

View the recording

14 August - Critical Conversation on Racism (part 3)

Khadija Mohammed (Chair) hosts the webinar The Journey From Critical Conversations to Critical Action: We stand united against racism’. With words from  Richard Lochhead, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, The Scottish Government.

View the recording

24 Sept Progressing race equality: Action, Allyship and Anti-Racism

Please be aware, this webinar includes a racial slur, said in an educational context in response to a question on use of terminology, and referencing Martin Luther King Jr.’s use of language, e.g. King’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail.

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21 October Tackling Racism on Campus: From Critical Conversations to Action: What does that look like?

This is an interactive session where the steering group invited feedback from the audience on the assets under development, to move them from a statement to practical steps, to accountability.

View the recording

Upcoming webinar - 27 November

Tackling Racism on Campus: Decolonising the institution

This is the sixth webinar in the series linked to the Tackling Racism on Campus: Raising awareness and creating the conditions for confident conversations project. Which is an Advance HE Project funded by SFC and led by an expert group of EDI practitioners, academics, tertiary education staff and students. Further information of the project aims can be found here.

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