Research perspectives

Universities UK publishes recommendations on tackling racial harassment in higher education.

An advisory group set up by Universities UK has brought forward recommendations for change just over a year after the Equality and Human Rights Commission uncovered widespread evidence of racial harassment on university campuses.

The advisory group, chaired by Professor David Richardson, Vice-Chancellor, University of East Anglia and supported by experts in the field, carried out in-depth consultation with panels of exclusively Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and staff with lived experience of racial harassment.

The recommendations include practical steps that all universities can implement immediately:

  • Publicly commit priority status to tackling racial harassment
  • Engage directly with students and staff with lived experience of racial harassment
  • Review current policies and procedures and develop new institution-wide strategies for tackling racial harassment
  • Improve awareness and understanding of racism, racial harassment, white privilege and “microaggressions” among all staff and students, including through anti-racist training
  • Ensure expected behaviours for online behaviour are clearly communicated to students and staff, as well as sanctions for breaches
  • Develop and introduce reporting systems for incidents of racial harassment
  • Collect data on reports of incidents and share regularly with senior staff and governing bodies

The guidance goes on to seek an acknowledgement from universities about where  issues arise citing incidents of racial harassment, a lack of diversity among senior leaders, the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic student attainment gap and ethnicity pay gaps among staff. It also recommends training for senior leaders and governing bodies to improve their awareness of concepts including white privilege and allyship, and makes clear that efforts to address racial harassment will only succeed if the entire university community – students, staff, alumni, and local partners – are engaged and encouraged to take shared responsibility for change.