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Senior staff must ensure race equality policies are implemented, if universities are to address the attainment gap between students from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds and their white counterparts says a report released today.

The report, looking at the Race Equality Charter (REC)*, also calls for annual audits of universities’ efforts to address the BME attainment gap and to provide universities that do achieve the REC with a boost when it comes to research funding.

The report, by Professor Kalwant Bhopal and Clare Pitkin from the University of Birmingham for the University and College Union (UCU), will be unveiled at a conference at the union’s London office.  The authors will deliver the keynote address and other speakers include UCU’s president-elect Douglas Chalmers and representatives from institutions with REC status.

Universities who had applied for the REC said undergoing the application process was as useful as achieving the REC as it helped them focus their work around race equality. They added it helped confront a culture where staff might have a fear of discussing issues of race.

UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: ‘The Race Equality Charter tackles both staff and student inequality in our universities and we should be doing all we can to encourage more universities to apply for the REC. This timely reports highlights that, while there is still much to do, initiatives such as the REC can make a real difference.

‘We hope the sector will take serious note of the interesting and challenging ideas contained within the report. We will certainly be consulting with our members on how best to implement them.’

Report author Professor Kalwant Bhopal said: ‘This report, the first of its kind, provides original research on how universities should think about advancing race equality. If universities want to address the issue, they must consider how they can change their practices to implement real change for BME staff and students.’

* The Race Equality Charter was introduced in 2014 and its main focus is to improve the representation and progression of minority ethnic staff and students in higher education institutions. The REC aims to provide a framework through which institutions are encouraged to identify and reflect on institutional and cultural barriers impacting upon staff and students. There are 48 REC members and in 2015, a total of 21 institutions applied for the award of which 8 were awarded a bronze award. Since last year, this number increased to 10 award holders. 

For more information please contact:

Emma McKinney, Communications Manager (Health Sciences), University of Birmingham or tel: +44 (0) 121 414 6681, or contact the press office on +44 (0) 7789 921 165 or 

Report author - Kalwant Bhopal tel: + 44 (0)7772 609 814.

UCU - Dan Ashley  tell: + 44 (0)20 7756 2600; mobile: + 44 (0)7789 518 992

  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 5,000 international students from over 150 countries.