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Achieving race equality and ending racism in higher education


Staring at a concrete ceiling while stapled to the floor was how Professor Udy Archibong MBE spoke about her experience as a black woman and trying to work in higher education during Brunel University London’s ‘Let’s Talk About Race in HE’ event, held on 22 June.

Prof Archibong, from the University of Bradford, was joined on the online panel by the University of Greenwich’s Prof Paul Miller; by Lord Simon Woolley, the Advisory Chair of the UK government’s Race Disparity Unit; and by Brunel’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Officer Dr Gulce Ipek.

Organised and hosted by Sanchia Alasia, Brunel’s EDI Manager, the panel discussion covered how we can make universities anti-racist, and the impact of initiatives to address race equality – such as Advance HE’s Diversifying Leadership programme, a management programme for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) employees in the university sector.

Discussion ranged from describing personal experiences of racist language, to research amongst the UK civil service and school system on the impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities. It was highlighted that 90% of all the healthcare workers that have died in the UK from Covid-19 have been from a BAME background, and that higher education has seen a lack of progress on the diversity and inclusion agenda, which has historically favoured white women and held back men and women from BAME communities.

Lord Woolley concluded with some important messages: that we cannot let the current political will to end racism disappear without making sure it actually does; and that now this systemic racism has been exposed, we need to also admit that the current pathways for BAME people into success in education and work are not working.

“We all need to take responsibility for eliminating racism and there will be uncomfortable moments on this journey,” said Alasia. “Everyone has blind spots. White people especially have to be open to acknowledging this, questioning bias and working with Black colleagues to make change happen.”

Brunel’s EDI team will produce a bite-size version of the video alongside key recommendations for the higher education section and for Brunel in order to continue tackling race inequality.

This panel discussion, including the Q&As, is available to watch on YouTube.

Brunel University London’s Ethnic Minority Staff Network is chaired by Satyesh Shah. To request to join the network’s email list, contact Satyesh.

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