Black History Month at the University of Surrey

Every October, we celebrate Black History Month in the UK. This is an important annual celebration of the contributions that Black people have made and continue to make to the UK.

At Surrey, we seek to recognise and celebrate our Black students and staff; this is an opportunity to learn more about the history and achievements of Black people in our society and within our community.

Black History Month encourages us to focus on the achievements of Black people, to listen, champion and learn. This should not be limited to one month a year – but we recognise that, in a structurally racist society, there is a need to focus awareness in this way. We have a long way to go before we achieve equal recognition for people of all ethnic groups.


Recent data shows that, despite some progress towards equality in the higher education (HE) sector, Black women benefit least from Athena Swan and Race Equality Charter activities.  This is evidenced by the persistent low representation of Black women in senior roles within UK universities, with only 25 Black women professors in the UK in 2020 (equating to about 0.1% of all UK professors).

Therefore, the HE sector must work much harder to address the obstacles for Black women in HE in the UK to overcome this woeful representation and support for Black women’s HE careers.

At Surrey, we are introducing a number of initiatives to try to address this. We recognise, value, and want to highlight the fantastic contribution that Black women make to our community. Over the coming weeks, within Black History Month we will be showcasing brilliant Black female colleagues so that we can learn more about their career journeys and experiences.

Illustrating our commitment to anti-racism

Artist, Adaugo Yvonne Okenwa with her artwork 'The Pride of Heritage'

In 2020 we ran a competition inviting students to design a piece of floor art in support of anti-racism. Adaugo Yvonne Okenwa, a third-year Law student, won the competition with her design, The Pride of Heritage.

The idea of the artwork itself was also student-led, having been proposed by Languages student Sharna Piercy as a means of creating a permanent reminder of our commitment to anti-racism. It was undertaken as a joint initiative between the University and Students' Union.

Racial equality

At the University of Surrey, we value and celebrate the racial and ethnic diversity within our community and are committed to being an anti-racist institution.