Black Lives Matter and Race Equality at the University of Surrey

The events in the US during the last month have been deeply disturbing for many of us and George Floyd’s killing is the devastating waste of another Black life at the hands of the US police.  But as has been raised countless times on social media, racism, and in particular such treatment of Black people, is not unique to the US.  In the UK, there are many Black men and women who have been killed by British police or while in police custody. Cherry Groce, Sean Rigg, Christopher Alder, Sheku Bayoh, the list goes on and examples of racism extend into every aspect of our society.  We know this is an enormous problem and yet it persists because of structural inequalities throughout society that prevent people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds having the same opportunities and occupying the same spaces of power as White people. 

And we have to recognise that these inequalities exist within the University of Surrey too. They manifest themselves in numerous ways, particularly in the BAME awarding rate gap and in the under-representation of BAME professors. We are particularly looking at ways we can support Black staff and students in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, but these are still under development. So I wanted to share work that is currently happening within Surrey to address race inequalities. Here are some examples:

  • We have set up a Report + Support tool for people to report all experiences of discrimination – we urge staff and students to use this platform to report any experiences of racism to us so that we can respond appropriately to any racist behaviour within our university. Every complaint or issue raised is investigated fully, and robust action is taken.
  • VP Education Professor Osama Khan is leading a programme on the BAME awarding rate gap; this includes the great advocacy work by VP Voice Ajay Ajimobi and her recommendations for change.
  • Within the Race Equality Self-Assessment Team, we are forming an Anti-Racism working group, to urgently and specifically focus on a programme of work to tackle racism on campus.  This will comprise staff and students.
  • Within the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) team, we have revised and strengthened our staff Unconscious Bias training to focus more on White privilege. We, alongside Widening Participation & Outreach (WP&O), are developing additional Race Equality e-training for student-facing staff.
  • Our WP&O work supports the education and progression of under-represented learners in the local community and have several initiatives that support BAME young people. We have enhanced the recruitment of Surrey Student Ambassadors from BAME backgrounds who support this work and the University’s commitment to Widening Access.
  • Professional Training Year (PTY) bursaries has been established to support undergraduate Home/UK students fund a professional training year.
  • Within the Centre for Wellbeing, we are aware of our lack of representation of BAME counsellors and this is something we are actively trying to correct.  In the meantime, our diverse chaplaincy (a few of whom are trained counsellors) are available to offer additional support.
  • Within EDI, we have a large programme of work focussed on improving the diversity of our staff and student recruitment.
  • Across the University, we celebrate diversity of all kinds through events, such as International Women’s Day, Pride events and in October, the University and Student Union will be hosting a series of Black History Month events.  We are also excited about starting a new ‘Human Library’-style catalogue, including a celebration of the Windrush generation in June.

There also many other initiatives planned.  I want to assure you that in the development and delivery of all our work, myself and the EDI team will be engaging with relevant groups within the University to ensure that our EDI programmes are as effective and meaningful as possible for the populations affected.  

Dr Emily Williams

Academic Lead for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion