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The Equality and Human Rights Commission report on racial harassment in UK universities

UCU responds to damning report on racial harassment in UK universities

Universities must do more to stamp out racial harassment, the University and College Union (UCU) said today (Wednesday).

The union was responding to a damning report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which warns that “racial harassment is a common occurrence for many students and staff in British universities”.

The report warns there is a reluctance to acknowledge the prevalence of racial harassment within British universities and that some institutions would put their reputation above tackling the problem.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: ‘There must be a zero-tolerance approach to racial harassment in and around our universities. Universities have to recognise the scale of the problem and take serious steps to deal with it, and to support those who come forward or are affected by it.

‘We agree with the EHRC that there needs to be a proactive duty on universities to protect staff from harassment and an improved reporting process for staff and students.’

Responding to the EHRC Report on University Racial Harassment, NUS Scotland Black Students Officer, Franklin Jacob, said:

“The EHRC report lays bare the unacceptable scourge of racial harassment experienced by staff and students at University. To read that almost a quarter (24%) of students surveyed had been the victim of racial harassment whilst 20% of students had been racially attacked is damning. The figure in Scotland (11%), whilst lower, still shows the work that must be achieved by the entire sector. “NUS Scotland has long been at the forefront of fighting racism and division on our campuses. All universities – without fail – must take steps to address transparency of reporting procedures, provide proper redress for victims and to create a zero-tolerance culture towards racial harassment on campuses, stamping out hatred and prejudice for good.”

Universities must do more to tackle shocking levels of racism, says UNISON

Commenting on a report published today (Wednesday) by the Equality and Human Rights Commission into the scale of racial harassment at UK universities, UNISON head of education Jon Richards said:

“This report is shocking and details some horrific incidents. It’s clear racial harassment is rife throughout the whole higher education system, but it’s not just students – staff suffer too.

“It is disgraceful and more must be done to stamp out racism from all institutions. Universities must improve the way they handle complaints, make it easier for people to come forward and emphasise that racism and abuse have no place on any campus anywhere.”

Universities UK pledges new support for universities to take urgent action on tackling racial harassment

Responding to today’s report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission on racial harassment in higher education, Universities UK (UUK) has pledged to lead-cross sector action to support universities to take effective and urgent steps to prevent and respond to racial harassment. This work will draw extensively on independent, external expertise and challenge.  

Professor Julia Buckingham CBE, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of Brunel University London, said:

“All higher education providers must study this report’s findings and recommendations and take urgent action.

“There is no place for racial harassment on a university campus, or anywhere else – and I find it sad and shocking how many people are still subject to it. Universities must be places where all students and staff are able to flourish and we must intensify our work to ensure this happens.

“Universities UK will today be urgently seeking independent, external expertise to strengthen our new group on tackling racial harassment to advise universities on effective actions and how to scrutinise and challenge action plans.

“And I am calling on my fellow university leaders to make this a top priority, starting by committing publicly to taking urgent action in their institution and ensuring staff and students know how to report incidents and how to access the support available to them.”

Following on from the publication of today’s report, UUK will:

  • Call on its members to commit publicly to taking action, working with their staff, students, local communities and representative groups. This will include making it easier for people to report incidents, putting better processes in place for responding to those reports and sharing good practice across the sector.
  • Seek independent, external expert advisors to work with a new group, set up by UUK earlier this month, on preventing and responding to racial harassment.
  • Ensure there are strong mechanisms for scrutiny and challenge of guidance emerging from this group, and support for universities developing their own action plans.
  • Ensure UUK’s work on student mental health is aligned with efforts to support staff and student affected by racial harassment.
  • Write to the Information Commissioner to explore how universities can better understand the requirements of data protection legislation to support more effective complaints handling and redress.

The full copy of the EHRC Report ‘Tackling Racial Harassment: Universities Challenged’ can be view here 

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