Inside Track - Sir Alan Langlands: Taking action on equality and inclusion.
Why it's imperative that we create an inclusive environment that meets the needs and aspirations of students and staff from diverse backgrounds in the UK and internationally.
As an international, research-intensive university with a strong commitment to student education, it is imperative that we create an inclusive environment that attracts students and staff from diverse backgrounds in the UK and internationally, and that we meet their needs and aspirations, and support them all in realising their ambitions.
This is the basis for the University's newly-published Equality and Inclusion Framework 2020-25. It spans the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 and will help ensure that every member of our community is treated with dignity and mutual respect.
However, we recognise that bias and discrimination still exist both in society and in higher education, and that there are disadvantages and inequalities in accessing education, new opportunities and experiences, and positive outcomes for some students and staff. This is not acceptable and we remain committed to achieving an equal and inclusive environment for all, and taking action to deliver this.
This work is overseen by the Equality and Inclusion Board (EIB) set up last year to provide assurance to the University Council – our governing body – and the wider community, that we are meeting our responsibilities under the Act. It is delivered by an Equality and Inclusion Delivery Group (EIDG) comprising a wider range of Universityrepresentatives, including from Leeds University Union, with a collective commitment to achieving positive change.
At the beginning of this year, the EIB agreed that race equality and inclusion should be our first priority for action,underlying its importance as an essential part of every facet of University life. On Wednesday 24 June, the Board received and approved a progress report on the Race Equality Action Plan, and confirmed our commitment as a signatory of the Race at Work Charter.
It was also agreed that the EIDG should engage the University community in pursuing a prioritised set of actions under the following headings:
- Building trust amongst the University Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities
- Increasing the proportion of BAME staff in the University
- Increasing the representation of BAME staff in senior and leadership roles
- Supporting career development for BAME staff
- Increasing disclosure rates from all staff
- Providing effective reporting mechanisms and feedback on actions taken following reports of racial harassment or complaints
- Increasing student access from BAME groups
- Removing the awarding gaps for BAME students
- Increasing the progression of BAME students to postgraduate education and postdoctoral research
- Progressing curriculum change
We will define qualitative and quantitative measures for specific actions in each of these areas to ensure that our objectives for improvement are being met and we will report on progress regularly.
The EIB is very conscious that whilst using the term "BAME", we need to recognise that the lived experience is very different for different people, many of whom will have multiple, interconnected identities. We must therefore continue to work together to develop a language and an approach that values the different experiences and perspectives that each person brings to the life and work of the University.
Close attention will also be given to the commitments made in the University's Access and Participation Plan 2020-21 to 2024-25, which recognises the importance of equal opportunity, access and student success for all under-represented groups. This sits alongside work already under way to review curriculum content across the University, building on the Students' Union’s support for the 'Why Is My Curriculum White?' campaign, and to make changes to the institutional approach to assessment, reflected in our commitment to the BAME attainment pledge sponsored by Universities UK and the National Union of Students.
As a next step the University is just completing a new five year strategy to ensure that our approach to enabling every student to succeed is genuinely inclusive, and that students from under-represented groups – including those from BAME backgrounds – can overcome the barriers that still exist in Higher Education. The strategy puts forward a clear vision for what life will be like for all students in the future, including the support they can expect to access the University, to thrive when they are here, and to succeed in further study or their chosen career.
This approach builds on existing work, including our Access to Leeds scheme and our close partnership with Leeds University Union, and outlines additional priorities for postgraduate students as well as staff. It will cover the four pillars of the student lifecycle – access, continuation, attainment and progress – and we will be saying more about this soon.
Of course, I am very conscious that these actions come at a time of great international concern and anger about racism and inequality. The University has been very clear that it stands in solidarity with the Black Community and that racism and intolerance has no place here.
We are equally clear that as society grapples with the important underlying questions of history, injustice, understanding and compassion, we have a responsibility to inform the wider debate and to commit to rapid practical action – action which will eliminate bias and discrimination and ensure an equal and inclusive environment for every member of the University community.
26 June 2020.
Posted in: My Week