The University of Reading’s Race Equality Review, published yesterday, details 20 recommendations to ensure fairer and more equal treatment for all staff and students.
Professor Robert Van de Noort, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading, who commissioned the review, said: “This is an important report for a University that has acknowledged racism affecting members of our community, and has committed itself to do something about it.
“Racism continues to blight the life experiences of many Black, Asian and minority ethic people. We can and we must do whatever it takes to ensure that race is not an obstacle to our students and our colleagues achieving their best.
“As an institution we are committed to reducing inequality, and taking action to reduce racial inequality within the University is a vital part of our mission.”
The journey to race equality
In June 2020, in response to compelling calls from within and beyond the University for faster action on racial equality, the University commissioned a Race Equality Review. Led by Professor Parveen Yaqoob, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Chair of the Diversity & Inclusion Advisory Board, and Dr Allan Laville, the Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and co-Chair of the Race Equality Action Team (REACT), the review was set up to better understand issues facing staff and students and explore what more can be done to improve race equality.
The report is structured around four themes: representation; student experience and attainment; staff experience and progression; and culture.
The review began with an active listening phase to understand the lived experiences and challenges of our community. This involved a series of focus group sessions, held online due to COVID-19 restrictions, looking at a full range of aspects of life at the University.
Several key findings came out of the active listening phase, including:
- the value placed on the sense of belonging within the University community, among Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff and students
- the negative impact of microaggressions and subtle patterns of racial bias
- a lack of confidence in University procedures for dealing appropriately with racial harassment
- a lack of racial literacy around white privilege
- the importance of collective responsibility for equality, diversity and inclusion within the University.
In September 2020, the University invited staff and students to participate in a survey on race equality. The survey highlighted a mismatch between the perceptions of white and BAME staff and students, suggesting that white staff and students underestimate or are unaware of the challenges faced by BAME staff and students.
The second part of the review saw an examination of the University’s performance against objectives and activities since it first started publishing its annual Diversity and Inclusion Report in 2014-15. These were aligned with the four themes of the review: representation, student experience and attainment, staff experience and progression and culture.
The way forward
The Race Equality Review makes 20 recommendations, which are set out with clear lines of accountability. The implementation of the recommendations will be overseen by the Race Equality Action Team, which reports to the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board. The University is committed to delivering on these recommendations within the next two years.
Examples of some of the recommendations include:
- Put in place structures that will eliminate the awarding gap between white and BAME students.
- Take an evidence-based approach to improve procedures for promotion and progression for BAME staff.
- Review and amend, where appropriate, policies for dealing with discrimination and harassment.
- Support an inclusive culture by providing anti-racist and allyship training and recognising contribution to equality work.
Dr Laville said: “The Race Equality Review is a comprehensive overview of where the University of Reading is on its journey towards racial equality. It also sets out a vision for the future and how we can do better as an organisation for our staff and students. This will, of course, take time but we are committed to making significant progress on all twenty recommendations within the next two years.
“Bringing this Review together during a global pandemic has been a huge effort and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved, especially to those who came forward to share their experiences with us. We have had some difficult conversations, and this difficulty reflects the size and the importance of the tasks facing us.”
Professor Yaqoob said: “As an institution we recognise that failings have been made in the past, such as targets on representation, promotions and student attainment set in 2016, which have still not been met. We have now set out clear lines of accountability for each recommendation and progress on these will be reported to the University’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board.
“We recognise that we must come together as a community to tackle racial inequality. Responsibility for equality, diversity and inclusion across our organisation must not fall to minority groups alone. The Review sets out what more can be done at a team level and an individual level, so I call on all my colleagues to play their part. We must do better, and we will.”