A year ago, following the horrific murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, I wrote about ARU’s determination to tackle racism and achieve race equality. I set out a number of ongoing and future initiatives that we were undertaking across ARU, to encourage learning and achieve change.
Since then, racial injustice and racial disparities have remained in the spotlight, not least in the stark health and economic inequalities that have been laid bare by the pandemic.
We are only at the start of our journey to achieve genuine cultural and institutional change. I am hugely encouraged by the collective determination of colleagues from across our community, including our Students’ Union, and proud of the leadership shown by many, including our outstanding Black, Asian and minority ethnic Student Advocates. But I recognise, too, the urgency and the scale of the task at hand, and the frustration that many will be feeling at the pace of change within, and beyond, our community.
ARU’s mission – Transforming lives through innovative, inclusive and entrepreneurial education and research – has inclusion at its heart, and we take huge pride in the diversity of our student body, with around a third of our students identifying as Black, Asian and minority ethnic.
We must all acknowledge that racism exists on our campuses and in our society, and that we have an absolute responsibility as a university community to identify and reject it in all its forms. As Universities UK puts it, “universities have a significant opportunity to lead the way in driving cultural change, not only for our own community but for the benefit of wider society, as we shape the minds and attitudes of the next generation.”
This acknowledgement underpins our work to develop our forthcoming submission for the Race Equality Charter, and informs our new Race Equality Strategy, which we will soon be launching. In preparing our charter submission and our strategy we have reflected closely on our achievements to date, as well as the ongoing challenges we face as an institution.
Our Race Equality Strategy embraces an explicitly anti-racist approach and will drive comprehensive cultural change at ARU, so that we can offer a university experience where all members of our community can expect to fulfil their potential, irrespective of race.
Our commitment to race equality covers a range of actions in relation to the experience of our staff. We have launched a recruitment review, which includes a particular focus on under-representation of Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates in the recruitment process. And we have recently undertaken a staff survey around race and racism at ARU, and will use the feedback to inform actions to improve the working lives of our colleagues.
We are using our data more strategically, for example to identify the main reasons surrounding the awards gap for certain groups of students, including for many of those who come from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds.
And our Student Advocates continue to play a major role in our work on race equality. This year they have been raising awareness of anti-racism, whiteness, privilege and related themes, and developing tools for the university to diversify curricula. You can find some examples of their work using the hashtag #ARURaceEquality.
We are determined to fully mobilise our collective determination to tackle racism and racial injustice across our community, and are as keen as ever to work in partnership with staff and students to achieve these goals. We want to get this right, and we need the help of all in our community to do so.
As I said last year, we must accelerate and drive forward our commitment to securing racial equality, and take effective, concrete action. Nothing less is acceptable, and we are accountable for the outcome.
Professor Roderick Watkins, Vice Chancellor
25 May 2021
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