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Race Equality – University of Chester Progress to Date​

  • In June, following an open letter from the Vice Chancellor on the University's position on racism​, the University of Chester established a Race Equality Challenge Group to promote and co-ordinate positive change in relation to race equality and diversity across all sites, Faculties and Professional Services of the University of Chester. This Group is looking at what practical and tangible changes can be implemented to make a real difference to how all members of the University feel about and respond to race equality at the University of Chester.  The group's terms of reference can be viewed here.
  • The Race Equality Challenge Group has a small core membership – the Vice Chancellor; the University's Equality Officer; the University's Student BAME representative (undergraduate); a Postgraduate Student Representative; two members of academic staff; a Project Officer and a vacancy for one further member of Professional Services staff.  The group is consulting widely, details below, however it is important to highlight that this Core Group comprises a range of ethnicities, ensuring that the burden of 'fixing the problem' is not left to only BAME staff to solve.  You can meet the Group members and hear more about their work here.
  • Every article, webinar, how-to guide on any equality topic will highlight senior leadership as one of the most important aspects of making change.  The Vice Chancellor is the Chair of the Race Equality Challenge Group and this Senior Leadership commitment ensures that race equality is moving to the heart of the culture, the centre of the strategy and at the very core of our mission, vision and values.
  • We are seizing the moment but this is certainly not a 'flash in the pan'.  We are seizing the moment as people generally are listening, watching, reading, taking more about racism and race equality than ever before and we can really get some momentum while people are interested; but our actions, detailed here on this page, are about creating long term, systemic change.
  • Regarding consultation, as much of our work is being conducted virtually, we have established two MS Teams sites: one for student consultation and one for staff.  Please email k.leighton@chester.ac.uk if you would like to be added to either team.   
  • A Race Equality Challenge Staff Focus Group was facilitated in early July with over 50 motivated and engaged staff, keen to make a difference attending.  This provided staff with a safe place to share their experience and emotions and enabled all who attended to learn from these experiences and actively engage in the conversation. 
  • Many, many actions arose from this discussion, which is currently being compiled into a detailed action plan, which will link to the University Strategy. As a result of the consultation, actions will be taken forward to accelerate progress on race-related institutional targets in the University's Access and Participation Plan; Promote and support specific educational interventions (including, but not limited to, decolonising the curriculum); Explore how historic antecedents reflect on the current University; Review faith spaces; Review staff culture and Review the student journey from applicant to alumni.
  • The development of a detailed action plan arising from the consultations and examination of data will enable measures of progress and relevant reporting.  Through the work of the group, the University's practices, policies and programmes will be closely examined to ensure the impact on race equality is closely identified and action taken to address any inequalities.
  • The Race Equality Challenge Group hosted a student consultation event Raising Our Voices from 5pm-7pm on Friday 18th September.  With keynotes addresses from Akil Hunte, multi award-winning law graduate from Nottingham Trent University, and the University of Chester's BAME Student Representative Arfana Ali, this event was an opportunity for all who attend to engage in a focus group to provide their views on the priorities for the new University of Chester Strategy. This is entitled 'Citizen Student' and a key priority is to promote and improve race equality.  This event aimed to give students a real opportunity to give their views on the positive changes that need to take place across the University, help bring about long-term change and have their voice heard, all in a very safe space.   Over 50 BAME students attended and the event was a great success.  While some students told upsetting stories about their experiences, the event did what we hoped which was to provide a space for BAME students to come together, share their stories and raise their voices.  Again, many actions came from this which the Challenge Group are taking forward and you can hear about some of them here​
  • The Group has developed the role of Student Race Advocate and ten Advocates were recruited for the 2020/21 academic year and were in post from January - June 2021. Recruitment​ for the 2021/22 academic year began in September 2021. The race advocates actively support and promote the needs of Black, Asian and other minority ethic students through contributing to many aspects of the University's work, ensuring excellent service delivery across the University of Chester.  This is a paid role and gives the students undertaking this opportunity a vast variety of experience through promoting race equality across the University of Chester and suggesting creative ways to improve inclusivity and availability of BAME student opportunities; providing support for BAME students and providing help with welfare issues, reaching out to hard to reach students; partnership working with staff on a range of topics; policy input and development; providing mentoring, buddying and reverse mentoring and developing conferences and events. The job description for this role is available here: Race Advocate job description FINAL.doc
  • The establishment of a Race Equality Discussion Board​ on the University's intranet has allowed for a space for people to share articles, podcasts, TEDX talks and events to enable others to learn more about this important topic.
  • A range of Black History Month events and resources has been developed on Portal and by the CSU 
  • A review of staff culture will include building on how staff are developed through Diversity and inclusion programmes to further build a culture of belonging and inclusion and to ensure staff are aware of their own unconscious biases and feel able to challenge others. 
  • The University is fully funding two places on Advance HE's Diversifying Leadership programme, designed to support early-career academics and professional services staff from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds who are about to take their first steps into a leadership role. It explores themes of power and influence, demystifying leadership, cultural identity and cultural capital, increasing your visibility and authentic leadership and features leadership stories from high-profile HE leaders.
  • There have been a number of changes to the Recruitment and Selection process:
    With immediate effect, it is mandatory for all recruitment and selection panels to explore a commitment to Equality and Diversity with all prospective candidates.  The Competency Based Interview Question Bank has been updated to include over 20 equality and diversity focussed questions that interview panels can choose from or adapt to really ensure that the University is appointing new staff committed to the promotion of diversity and equality and the elimination of discrimination in all its forms.  In recent interviews, when they were asked the E&D questions the candidate (who incidentally was appointed) commented how they welcomed being asked the question as it showed the University was as committed to E&D as they had hoped and showed it was an organisation they wanted to work in even more. ​
  • The selection panel recommendation form also encourages the interview panel to discuss and reflect on their own Unconscious Biases and Positive Action and consider all aspects of Equality and Diversity in reaching a decision on appointment. 
  • Positive Action is a key focus for the University and this was demonstrated in the way the recent vacancies for senior role Provost and Deputy Vice Chancellor and Pro Vice Chancellor Student Experience roles were advertised, with targeted recruitment across targeted ethnicity, LGBT, disability, gender equality and generic diversity recruitment sites.
  • The University runs a successful, large-scale Diversity Festival each March with ​a range of events, high profile speakers, workshops, training and much more.  In March 2021, the 16th annual Festival, the theme of the Festival was primarily race focussed and built upon events in previous years, and upon the work of the Race Equality Challenge Group to upskill staff and students, allowed for discussion and story-sharing and to address actions in the action plan.
  • This is very much a work in progress and the Race Equality Challenge Group are fully committed to making real change.
  • On 4th May, the Vice Chancellor delivered this update​, reflecting on last 12 months of Race Equality at the University.  
  • The University’s proactive Outreach Team have recently embarked on a team development programme to increase and broaden their knowledge of Equality and Diversity matters. The development aims to enable the team to recognise implicit and explicit discrimination in themselves and others, and be confident to challenge; as well as enabling the team to identify, implement and evaluate strategies which tackle discrimination both personally and professionally.  You can view the session detailing this fantastic initiative here.
  • In May, RARA Education delivered an event titled "One Year On: A Post George Floyd Britain - part 1 : A critical reflection on the post-George Floyd sociocultural climate in Britain".  You can view this great session here.  
  • In June 2021, we reflected on 12 months of equality work.pdf
  • In July 2021, the Race Equality Challenge Group came together in person to celebrate acheivements in 2020/21, you can discover more on this here.