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Black Lives Matter: an update

22 April 2021

In June 2020, we made a public commitment to our Black staff and students, stating our belief that Black Lives Matter. We recognise that it is easier to make a statement than to create change, and that we will need to demonstrate this commitment through concrete actions.

Black Lives Matter, UCL Institute of Education

This update describes the actions we have taken since June.

We have worked to educate ourselves as a community about racism and its effects. The IOE’s senior management team commissioned an independent expert to help us understand the extent and impact of racism, and anti-racist action that could begin to dismantle unjust structures, in our organisation and beyond. The materials from this event were shared with our departmental Inclusion Leads, who have been asked to discuss with their Heads of Department what anti-racist action could be undertaken locally. Two departments have also held their own events to discuss racism and anti-racist action.

UCL has set institutional targets to address the BAME awarding gap. In addition, two departments are undertaking projects related to UCL’s Liberating the Curriculum work and to decolonising the curriculum.

As part of our annual Dean’s Race Equality Pledges, we now work with UCL’s fair recruitment specialists for all senior management appointments. We are committed to extending this to other important appointments when capacity within the fair recruitment scheme permits this. Linked to our involvement in UCL East, we are also exploring options for positive action when recruiting to posts, and will monitor the appointment ratio for Black and other under-represented groups with HR. 

Another pledge was to undertake a task and finish group to explore ways of widening participation. This was delayed due to the pandemic, as we have had to focus on supporting existing education work, and so we will take this forward next year instead. In the meantime, we have participated in UCL-wide plans to widen participation in doctoral study, to address ‘pipeline’ opportunities that contribute to the under-representation of Black academics amongst our staff. This includes committing faculty funds to offer potential doctoral students a year-long development and mentorship programme followed by an eight-week research placement.

In addition to work that focuses on racism, we have also taken action on equality and inclusion, where racism is an important contributing element.

We have launched the self-assessment team that will lead our work towards an Athena SWAN silver application. This process will include exploring intersectional experiences, agreeing actions to address them and gathering evidence about progress.

UCL has developed a response to the inquiry into the history of eugenics – an idea strongly linked to racism, but which has also fostered ableism. IOE staff were actively involved in developing UCL’s plan of action, which we expect to be announced soon. Our contribution focused particularly on actions related to education, and we will contribute to this when the work begins.

We asked an academic with expertise in the history of education to review the IOE’s own history, to identify problematic legacies; this was reported to the IOE’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion committee. The report highlighted the work of Burt (1924-1931), a psychologist whose work was later mostly discredited, who sought to link inherited intelligence to social class; undervaluing women, including Margaret Punnett and Clotilde von Wyss, who made major contributions to the IOE; and the creation of a Colonial Department in 1934. Thanks to a Liberating the Curriculum project, this problematic legacy is exposed and explored in our undergraduate provision. Further work is being scoped that will explore these issues, and their legacies.

All of our senior management team has undertaken diversity training, unconscious bias training and ‘where do you draw the line?’ training that focuses on preventing and addressing bullying and harassment. One of our departments also commissioned ‘where do you draw the line?’ training for its departmental management team. As a faculty, we monitor reports of bullying and harassment regularly, taking UCL’s reports about any incidents to the Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion committee for review.

In response to the experiences of staff, HR has drawn together data for us about our staff profile. We will use this to interrogate promotion and progression data, to identify inequalities including racism, enabling us to act on them. This year, our departmental Inclusion Leads joined the departmental panels that reviewed promotion applications, with a specific brief to advocate for and report on equalities issues in the process, including any concerns about under-representation. 

Similarly, in preparing the submission for the Research Excellence Framework, we undertook an equalities audit that showed that the work of White scholars was proportionally over-represented in the draft data set; this was revised to correct the bias and provide a fair representation of the work of all our staff.

We recognise that these actions are only a first step towards addressing racism, including the legacies of historical racism that can be seen in our institutional structures and staff profile. We remain committed to addressing these, and to open reporting and discussion on the actions we have taken. Anyone who wants to provide feedback on these actions, or who would like to propose other actions that should be taken, is invited to contact the Pro Director for Academic Development, Martin Oliver; you can also make these suggestions to your departmental Inclusion Lead, if you prefer. 

We encourage any staff or students who experience harassment, including racism, to use UCL’s Report + Support system to help us deal with this unacceptable behaviour.

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