The BAME experience: how to tackle racial harassment in higher education

The EHRC is due to publish its findings from a three-year inquiry into the types of racial harassments experienced in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs), this month. You can help the Westminster Higher Education Forum stop racial harassment in the UK’s colleges and universities. Here is how…

Feeling welcomed, and that they belong, is an important factor in students’ and staff’s wellbeing – and ability to reach their potential. Racial harassment can make people feel they don’t belong, undermine their confidence, and ability to achieve and be successful. 

Research suggests significant numbers of ethnic minority students are victims of racial harassment, and many are very anxious about the issue, says the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Ethnic minority staff are also more likely to say they experience harassment working in universities than their white peers.

The Westminster Higher Education Forum will be hosting a seminar in November to examine how to tackle racial harassment and improve the BAME experience in higher education, including how effectively they can seek redress.

The conference will be an opportunity to discuss the findings of the EHRC inquiry into racial harassment in higher education, looking at the current state of equality in UK HE, the nature of harassment experienced by students and how universities manage complaints.

Guest speakers include Christina Barnes, Senior Principal, Inquiries and Intelligence, Equality and Human Rights Commission; Christine Child, Adjudication Manager, Office of the Independent Adjudicator and the Office for Students.

The event, which takes place on the morning of 27, November 2019 in Central London, will be chaired by Rt Hon David Lammy MP, former Minister, Higher Education and Intellectual Property, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

Delegates will discuss key areas of concern identified by the inquiry and issues around implementation of recommendations, including in:

  • Developing an understanding of the nature and range of racial harassment in HEIs;
  • Availability and accessibility of mechanisms for reporting and redress, priorities for their improvement, and what effective action means in practice; and
  • The adequacy of the statutory and legal framework affecting the responsibilities of universities in tackling the issues.

They will also discuss the legal and moral obligations of higher education institutions towards ethnic minority students – including how university and student union policies can restrict hate speech while protecting free speech.

This comes following the publication of guidance by the EHRC setting out the legal rights and duties around free speech in UK universities.

Join the event to help inform how:

  • institutions can manage racial harassment which occurs off-campus, including in student accommodation blocks and on social media
  • how to address institutional procedures for reporting racial harassment, and
  • look at how HEIs can ensure that complaints procedures and support structures are simple and accessible for victims.

Delegates will consider how institutions can clarify and update codes of behaviour and disciplinary policies, specifically around the investigation process and sanctions, to ensure that they are clear, consistent and fair.

Further sessions will consider the university experience for ethnic minority students more broadly, including how institutions can develop a more inclusive learning environment and priorities for creating both an inclusive curriculum and culturally-competent support service.

Finally, there will also be discussions on addressing the barriers to progression faced by BAME academics.

A regularly updated draft version of the agenda is available to download here. The seminar is organised based on strict impartiality by the Westminster Higher Education Forum. Book online here.
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