About the Race Equality Charter
What is the Race Equality Charter?
Launched in 2016 by the Equality Challenge Unit (now Advance HE), REC provides a framework through which institutions work to identify and self-reflect on institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of minority ethnic staff and students. It covers academic staff, professional services staff, student progression and attainment, diversity of the curriculum as well as the institution and its local context. Through their Self-Assessment Team, universities work to develop initiatives and solutions to target these areas and can apply for a Bronze or Silver REC award, according to the level of their progress.
As with Athena SWAN, REC is an evolving charter. Institutions are expected to start at Bronze level and progress to Silver. The award is at institutional level only but actions must be owned and implemented at Faculty/Directorate level.
The charter is underpinned by five key principles. Institutions that apply to be part of the Charter commit to adopting these principles within policies, practices, action plans and cultures:
1. Racial inequalities are a significant issue within higher education. Racial inequalities are not necessarily overt, isolated incidents. Racism is an everyday facet of UK society and racial inequalities manifest themselves in everyday situations, processes and behaviours.
2. UK higher education cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of the whole population and until individuals from all ethnic backgrounds can benefit equally from the opportunities it affords.
3. In developing solutions to racial inequalities, it is important that they are aimed at achieving long-term institutional culture change, avoiding a deficit model where solutions are aimed at changing the individual.
4. Minority ethnic staff and students are not a homogenous group. People from different ethnic backgrounds have different experiences of and outcomes from/within higher education, and that complexity needs to be considered in analysing data and developing actions.
5. All individuals have multiple identities, and the intersection of those different identities should be considered wherever possible.
Why is it important?
Whilst there has been various developments with regard to race equality in higher education; there is still a lot of work to be done. For instance, recent research has explored the existence of institutional racism in higher education institutions (HEIs). In 2016, a report carried out the by UCU focussed specifically on the experiences of black academics in higher education and found that the majority of respondents working in HEIs felt they had experienced some form of bullying and harassment from managers (72%). This was also the case in relation to experiencing bullying and harassment from colleagues (69%).
A report published by the Trade Unions Congress (2017) also found that racism in the workplace is commonplace for BAME workers with one in three workers reporting they have been bullied or harassed at work. The TUC state, ‘BME workers too often experience racism at work, which is part of their everyday life. And more times than not it’s hidden. There are more obvious racist incidents that take place. But also the more hidden types such as micro-aggressions, implicit bias and prejudice’.
BAME students also continue to experience disadvantages in HEIs. Whilst there has been a significant increase in the numbers of BAME students attending HEIs, inequalities continue to persist in terms of access to elite and Russell Group universities, degree outcomes and retention. Black students are also one and a half times more likely to drop out of university compared to their white peers, the reasons many cite for this is racism, a bias towards white students and a lack of cultural connection to the curriculum.
As part of the Equality Act (2010), the Public Sector Equality Duty places a general duty on HEIs to have due regard in order to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, to advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations. In order to be able to demonstrate due regard, HEIs must consider these aims when making decisions as employers and education providers; particularly when developing, evaluating and reviewing policies, designing, delivering and evaluating services (including education provisions) and commissioning and procuring services from others.
Source: Adapted from ‘Investigating HEIs and their views on the Race Equality Charter’ (Bhopal and Pitkin, 2018)