De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) has been given the highest rating in the country for its work to improve equality and diversity.
The university is the first institution in the UK to receive a silver award in the Race Equality Charter (REC), a programme run by Advance HE, which aims to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education.
There are 99 institutions across the country which are members of the REC but, so far, only DMU’s submission has been rated as a silver award.
Professor Katie Normington, Vice-Chancellor of DMU, said the award was an honour.
She said: “Equality is one of the underpinning themes of our strategy and it is important for Leicester as the first majority minority city in the UK.
“Beyond this, all the research shows that diverse organisations are more successful and our commitment to supporting all cultures is paramount.
“We need to remember that achieving this is just a step on the journey to being the sort of university we want to be, and that much work remains to attain greater diversity in the workforce, in equal student achievement and becoming a truly anti-racist organisation.
Professor Normington gave her thanks to Kaushika Patel, who worked on this submission as Deputy PVC Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Deputy Dean for the Faculty of Health & Life Sciences, and to Chris Hall, DMU’s former Head of Equality and Diversity who, together with their team, submitted the nomination to Advance HE.
Launched in 2015, the REC was created to tackle inequality in higher education and to improve the representation, progression and success of Black, Asian and ethnically minoritised students, academics and professional staff in the UK’s universities.
Participating universities gather evidence in a structured way to better understand the prevalence of inequality so they can devise effective solutions to any equalities issues they identify. The plans are then reviewed by an independent panel drawn from across the sector.
To receive this award, institutions have to demonstrate determination and progress made to advance racial equality and remove institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of this.
DMU’s submission highlighted the work it has done through its Decolonising DMU programme, which aims to challenge racism and build an anti-racist university that creates fair outcomes for all staff and students.
This has included considering the racial bias within library resources and structures, and creating teaching and learning toolkits to assist the creation of diverse curricula and teaching methods.
Alongside this the project has supported the review of staff recruitment policies and processes to enable the university to work towards a more ethnically representative workforce creating a greater sense of belonging for staff and students.
DMU also showcased work undertaken by the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, which was set up in 2019 with support from DMU’s then-Chancellor Baroness Doreen Lawrence.
The centre delivers research and community engagement which aims to embed understanding of social justice at all levels of society, with a particular interest in engaging younger people, with work in schools across the country.
The submission also described the appointment of 11 Fair Outcome Champions at DMU, staff which work on a range of race equality actions, including working with 22 specific programmes to support closing the ethnicity awarding gap, devising and delivering racial literacy development sessions to support staff in conversations about race with students and colleagues and supporting the recruitment and activities of more than 100 paid student race equity advisors.
The submission also made it clear that DMU was aware much more could – and should – be done to create a fair, welcoming and diverse community.
It highlighted existing awarding gaps between white and Black, Asian and ethnically minoritised students and disproportions between ethnicities of staff among senior positions within the university.
But it outlined a number of measures DMU is set to take to continue to improve its race equity, including:
- Conducting a review of recruitment processes, including reviewing academic and professional service senior staff recruitment strategy to increase the number of Black, Asian and ethnically minoritised applicants and subsequently Black, Asian and ethnically minoritised staff in senior positions.
- Appointing 11 Fair Outcome Champions at DMU, to further support closing the ethnicity awarding gap. These Champions are devising and delivering racial literacy development sessions to support staff in conversations about race with students and colleagues.
- Developing and rolling out anti-racist training
Alison Johns, chief executive of Advance HE said DMU was “hugely deserving” of the recognition.
She said: “DMU’s work is having real impact in removing the barriers to success so that all students and staff have the opportunity to realise their talents.
“The silver award is a measure of DMU’s commitment to race equality. Furthermore, the university’s well-developed data systems are helping it understand and meet the needs of people who hold intersecting protected characteristics and continue to make huge strides in making everyone feel they belong.
“It is a fantastic milestone that an institution has attained a silver award for the very first time and it shows the extent to which the REC is becoming embedded across UK Higher Education.
“The charter is all about creating inclusive environments in which everyone can thrive and that is something that DMU is delivering in real and transformational ways.”
Kimberly Amon-Lamptey, third year Pharmacy student, said it was an honour to attend the country’s only university to hold a silver REC award.
She said: “I have had the opportunity to work with students and staff at DMU to help improve the student experience for all, and to help find solutions to issues which could hinder the student experience for marginalised communities.
“The awarding of the silver status means that the work that DMU has done, and is currently doing, has been recognised and it feels good to be part of an institution that actively tries to create the best environment for their students to fulfil their greatest potential.
“As a student pursuing a healthcare course, we are taught to factor in cultural differences into every situation. It is reassuring to see examples of conditions being shown on a variety of skin tones, as increased awareness of cultural or physical differences helps to promote harmony.”
Posted on Thursday 20th April 2023