Mon,18 Oct 2021

#AntiRacismInAction: Higher Education | Episode 3

#AntiRacismInAction: Higher Education with Oliver Young, Charles Egbu and David Mba 

Episode 3 of 9 BFELG Livestreams #AntiRacismInAction – Making the Most of an Ethnically Diverse Britain, co-produced by BFELG and FE News, was aired today Monday 18th October.

The Episode, #AntiRacismInAction: Higher Education, was special in that it featured Professor Charles Egbu and Professor David Mba, two eminent academicians who are *Black and who are leaders of Higher Education institutions in the UK. Black Vice-Chancellors and Black Deputy Vice-Chancellors are very few and far between in UK Higher Education.

Professor Egbu is Vice Chancellor, Leeds Trinity University. Appointed in 2020, he is the first UK university Vice-Chancellor of African heritage. Professor David Mba is the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise, University of the Arts (UAL), London.

In a sector where 25% of students are from Black communities, sadly, only 2.9% of university Vice-Chancellors/Principals (7 of 238) are Black. This situation is even worse than in Further Education where 8.1% (19 of 234) of college CEOs/Principals and 30% of students are Black. Very few board Chairs are from Black communities in both sectors and hardly will one find a Black leader in the senior hierarchy of regulatory bodies and organisations that provide both sectors with support. Black students are less likely to gain a place in high tariff universities or achieve a first or 2:1 degree. This cannot be right.

Introducing the Episode and the Guests, Oliver Young, Chief Diversity Officer, University of Exeter Business School, and a member of the BFELG stated unequivocally: ‘Anti- racism is the only way to cohesively advance our ambitions as a diverse and representative society. Anti-racism is a challenge we all need to take collective responsibility for, and address for our future generations.’

Racial inequalities are a significant issue in higher education. This was identified as one of five fundamental guiding principles of Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter (REC), formally launched in 2016. The Charter aims to improve the representation, progression and success of Black staff and students withing higher education.

In 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Report, ‘Tackling racial harassment: universities challenged’ uncovered ‘widespread evidence’ of racial harassment on university campuses and in November 2020 Universities UK (UUK) published guidance on tackling racial harassment in higher education. The guidance acknowledges that the higher education sector cannot reach its full potential unless it benefits from the talents of the whole population, and individuals from all ethnic backgrounds can benefit from the opportunities it provides. Importantly, the guidance acknowledges that racial harassment is just one manifestation of structural racism in higher education and points out that a wider programme of culture and policy reform is needed to tackle racism and racial inequalities of all forms.

There are currently about 79 institutional REC members, 17 of which are award holders. A recent independent evaluation (March 2021) of the REC identified the need for greater strategic senior manager and institutional buy-in for race equality.

Against this background, co-anchors Gavin O’Meara (CEO and Head of Digital, FE News) and Robin Landman OBE, and BFELG Executive Member, were in conversation with the featured Guests, exploring the particular Race Equality opportunities and challenges for the HE sector and their individual organisations and the specific HE system leadership actions necessary to make tangible and rapid progress.

David touched on his links with the BFELG and highlighted UAL’s Anti-racist Strategy. UAL is a collegiate university, specialising in arts, design, fashion and the performing arts. It is a federation of six arts colleges: Camberwell College of Arts, Central Saint Martins, Chelsea College of Arts, the London College of Communication, the London College of Fashion, and the Wimbledon College of Arts. UAL is also Europe’s largest specialist art and design university and the world’s second best university for Art and Design in the QS World University Ranking 2019 .

Charles highlighted a specific initiative by Leeds Trinity University to address racial inequalities. The University has recently launched its Strategic Plan 2021-2026 which is built around the four strategic pillars of ‘Education and Experience’, People and Sustainability’, ‘Research, Impact and Innovation’, and Careers and Enterprise’ supported by the two key themes of Digital Futures and the Leeds City Region. Promotion of the principles of dignity, respect, social justice, equality, and inclusion to support each and every person in the University community is a stated important part of the Strategic Plan. The University’s mission is rooted in its Catholic foundation and Leeds Trinity welcomes students from all backgrounds and beliefs.

Watch the Livestream to hear the participants’ calls to action to the Higher Education Sector!

* ’Black’ is used as an inclusive definition to refer to people from ethnically diverse backgrounds who share a lived experience of the effects of racism.