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Oxford University has a distinctive collegiate structure.

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Oxford University staff and students consulted on race equality proposals

All staff and students at the University of Oxford are being asked to share their views on proposals to improve race equality at the institution.

The University’s Race Equality Task Force has outlined a set of proposed measures aiming to address the under-representation of racial minorities at all levels across the University.

Following the University community’s input, a detailed strategy and business plan will be developed, to be approved by Council at the end of the academic year.

The Race Equality Task Force is now consulting on a set of proposed measures for tackling racial equity across the University.

Launched in November 2020 and reporting to Council, the Task Force aims to build on the wider range of existing activities that already take place across the collegiate University, accelerating change across Oxford.

The Task Force ran a programme of engagement activities with staff, students and other stakeholders in the 2020/21 academic year – including open events, interviews, focus groups and research.  Its findings were synthesised into a report presented to University Council in September 2021.

The Task Force found that there has been a significant focus at the University on race equality in recent years, with visible and measurable change in some areas, such as undergraduate access. However, in other areas, such as diversity of academic staff, internal and external feedback highlighted that progress has been far too slow, and that further interventions are needed.

In light of this, the Task Force proposes a wide range of actions aimed at building on existing progress and focussing on accelerating change in particular areas. They aim to address the under-representation at all levels at the University of those from Black and Minority Ethnic groups, and transform the experience of staff and students.

The measures include enabling actions to be enacted immediately to build the foundation for the future: creating a full-time senior equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) leadership role; working with the colleges to establish a joint University-college committee focused on EDI matters; and launching a communications strategy focused on anti-racism.

The Task Force has also outlined a number of detailed proposals grouped into different areas, including:

  • Staff Diversity: developing a more robust and coordinated approach to staff diversity, encompassing recruitment, progression and retention
  • Student Diversity and Experience: increasing the diversity of students at graduate level; developing central funding to support curriculum diversification; and improving social and wellbeing facilities for students of colour
  • Dealing with Racial Harassment: measures to create a harassment-free culture, with increased capacity for reporting and responding to instances of harassment
  • Research and Impact: embedding inclusive research practices across the University, improved co-ordination of race-related research; and making the case for roles with a focus   on a broad spectrum of race-related research
  • Culture and Community: strengthening training and awareness activities; supporting Black and Minority Ethnic students and staff networks; and increasing engagement with the local community and alumni
  • Responsibility and Accountability: ensuring EDI is firmly embedded in the University’s governance structures at all levels
  • Communications and engagement: increasing the profile of race-related issues; with a University-wide communication campaign and increased prominence of diversity content.

The proposed measures range from short term actions to longer term strategies that will take several years to come to fruition. Co-Chair Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) said: “This consultation is the first phase of a long-term plan. Making meaningful and sustained change will take some time to achieve – but we are committed to making a difference as soon as possible. Making this kind of change at Oxford requires the support and commitment of the staff and students across the institution, and we are keen to hear the opinions of as many members of the University community as possible.”

Co-Chair Anne Trefethen, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (People and GLAM) added: “As an institution, we are unequivocal in our opposition to racism and discrimination, but we have work to do.  We hope that the priorities and measures identified by the Task Force will help accelerate change in our community to create a more equitable and inclusive workplace. We now need to hear the views of colleagues from across the collegiate University. Do they have better suggestions? Are there things we have missed? Do they support these plans and are they willing to commit to them? We all need to have a voice in this conversation please engage with the consultation.”

Co-Chair Patricia Daley, Professor of the Human Geography of Africa, added: “The Task Force has already listened carefully to staff and students, and the proposals that we’re consulting on are designed to respond to what we heard. These are wide-ranging proposals, and I’m sure our staff and students will provide yet further positive insights over the course of the consultation.”

All staff (both University and college) and students can take part in the consultation via the Race Equality Task Force website. Submissions are anonymous and confidential and the deadline for responding is 5pm on Friday 1 December.

The Task Force will consider the response to the consultation and report back on it in Hilary term. Based on this input, it will develop a final University-wide strategy and funded business plan for approval by Council at the end of the 2021/22 academic year. Its outputs will also feed into the University’s next Race Equality Charter submission in 2022.