Staff and students consulted in Race Equality Task Force

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Oxford University have asked staff and students to share their thoughts on the University’s recent race equality proposals.

The University’s Race Equality Task Force has outlined a set of proposed measures which seek to address the under-representation of racial minorities across the University.

The aim is that following the input from staff and students, a detailed strategy and business plan will be developed, to be approved by Council at the end of the academic year.

The Race Equality Task Force was launched in November 2020 and reports to Council. The aims of the Task Force are to “build on the wider range of existing activities that already take place across the collegiate University, accelerating change across Oxford.”, according to the University website.

Previous initiatives have included a series of engagement activities with staff, students and other stakeholders in the 2020/21 academic year. These entailed open events, interviews, focus groups and research.  Its findings were synthesised into a report presented to University Council in September 2021.

The conclusions drawn were such that the Task Force found that there has been a significant focus at the University on race equality in recent years, with “visible and measurable change in some areas”, such as undergraduate access. However, the diversity of academic staff was lagging far behind.

In reaction the University, through the Task Force has proposed actions to address the under-representation at all levels at the University of those from Black and Minority Ethnic groups, and “transform the experience of staff and students.”

The University went on to say that these “measures include enabling actions to be enacted immediately to build the foundation for the future: creating a full-time senior equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) leadership role; working with the colleges to establish a joint University-college committee focused on EDI matters; and launching a communications strategy focused on anti-racism.”

The Task Force has also outlined a number of detailed proposals grouped into different areas, including some of which included:

Staff Diversity: developing a more robust and coordinated approach to staff diversity, encompassing recruitment, progression and retention

Student Diversity and Experience: increasing the diversity of students at graduate level; developing central funding to support curriculum diversification; and improving social and wellbeing facilities for students of colour

Dealing with Racial Harassment: measures to create a harassment-free culture, with increased capacity for reporting and responding to instances of harassment

The proposed measures range from short term actions to longer term strategies that will be rolled out over several years.

Co-Chair Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) said: “This consultation is the first phase of a long-term plan. Making meaningful and sustained change will take some time to achieve – but we are committed to making a difference as soon as possible. Making this kind of change at Oxford requires the support and commitment of the staff and students across the institution, and we are keen to hear the opinions of as many members of the University community as possible.”

Co-Chair Anne Trefethen, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (People and GLAM) added: “As an institution, we are unequivocal in our opposition to racism and discrimination, but we have work to do.  We hope that the priorities and measures identified by the Task Force will help accelerate change in our community to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace. We now need to hear the views of colleagues from across the collegiate University. Do they have better suggestions? Are there things we have missed? Do they support these plans and are they willing to commit to them? We all need to have a voice in this conversation please engage with the consultation.”

All staff (both University and college) and students can take part in the consultation via the Race Equality Task Force website. Submissions are anonymous and confidential and the deadline for responding is 5pm on Friday 1 December.

The Task Force has stated that it will consider the response to the consultation and report back in Hilary. The result of the consultation will inform a final University-wide strategy for the end of the 2021/22 academic year.


Image credit: Elliot Parker


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