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Embedding race equality in universities

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Published: 2 August 2021

Dr Giuseppe Cantafio, Senior Lecturer (Academic Development APP and TEF) at the University of Sunderland in London

Last month, two researchers at the University of Sunderland in London presented their work on the importance of race equality in higher education.  

Dr Giuseppe Cantafio (Academic Development APP and TEF) and Yasita Onyeneke (Personal Academic Tutor) talked about the project at the Teaching and Learning Conference 2021 

The event organised by Advance HE took place online from 6th to 8th July and included representatives from universities around the UK.  

Race equality in the university curriculum, according to Giuseppe and Yasita, is about creating a more inclusive environment to study and work in.   

“Inclusivity in academia is an issue that has been debated more and more in the last few years.” They told us.  

“It’s a process that needs departments across institutions to reflect on their racial equality continuously to make sure change happens.”  

The pair interviewed Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students and staff across the University of Sunderland in London to collect their data.  

“We found there were seven clear themes that people are thinking about right now when it comes to equality:  

1) The Curriculum – so essentially what we’re teaching our students  

2) Diversity – making sure the University reflects the wide range of people who come to study here  

3) Personal sphere – that's the influence and individual has over their studies and work-life  

4) The Institution – a bit wider than the personal sphere and encompasses the University as a whole  

5) Belonging – how we can make sure students and staff feel that our community is the place for them  

6) Technology – all about improving access and understanding of the tools needed to study and work at a higher education institution  

7) COVID-19 – with the coronavirus having a larger impact on the BAME community, it’s perhaps not surprising that this was a common theme among our study participants.”  

The research Yasita and Giuseppe carried out concluded that the issues around racial equality brought out by these themes could be tackled.  

Doing so, they argue, is an important part of creating cultural and long-lasting change in all levels of the university experience.  

“The aim of developing a tolerant, engaged and caring organisation with the ability to get rid of the idea of non-inclusive positions and activities is at the core of higher education institutions like the University of Sunderland in London,” they told us.  

“But to make sure that’s something which continues to happen the bigger, and therefore more diverse we get, we all need to think about our work and studies.  

It’s important to consider our academic lives through our society, its culture and even the history of where we’re spending so much of our lives.”  

Advance HE is a member-led charity for people working in higher education, interested in improving all aspects of the academic experience.  

Dr Giuseppe Cantafio teaches on our MBA and MSc International Business Management courses. You can watch his interview about smart cities on our Vodcasts. 

Yasita Onyeneke is one of our team of Personal Academic Tutors, who offer one-to-one support and advice throughout your time studying with us. Find out more by following #WeAreSunLon on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.