UCL Faculty of Laws


UCL Laws Statement in Solidarity with our Black Students, Staff and Alumni Around the World

19 June 2020

Black Lives Matter

In the wake of the horrific killing of George Floyd, following the killings of Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin and too many others, the UCL Faculty of Laws expresses its solidarity with our Black staff, students and alumni. We are seeing in the #Black Lives Matter movement the moral outrage at these acts reverberating around the world. The barbarity we have now all witnessed strikes at the very heart of the relationship between the citizen and the state. The legal community has a duty to speak out. The racist attitudes and assumptions that have led to these tragedies are not of course confined to the US context, but are pervasive in many of the structures and institutions that underpin British society, contributing to the inequalities that load the dice against Black lives. The situation demands honesty, and the Faculty of Laws must both speak out itself and take action where it can.

The Faculty has a proud history of promoting equality, being the first Law Faculty in England to admit students whatever their religious background, and the first to admit women on the same basis as men. But it is precisely that history which requires us to acknowledge that for too long patterns of structural and endemic discrimination within society, often reflecting the legacies of Empire and Britain’s role in the slave trade, have unfairly impacted the admission, attainment and experience of Black students. Structural barriers have also affected the recruitment, progression and pay of Black professional services and academic staff in the Faculty of Laws. These issues need to be addressed head-on. We must also face the impact of historic injustices on our Faculty’s teaching practice, curriculum and research culture, which have been largely filtered by white perspectives. 

These injustices are not only wrong in themselves, but they also compromise our foundational commitment as a Faculty to the values of equality, non-discrimination and social justice. We cannot hope to achieve excellence as an academic community unless we ensure that our doors are truly open to the best students and staff in the world regardless of their racial background. This requires both culture change and targeted actions.

The Faculty commits to identifying and taking action to change the attitudes and practices that have led to the significant underrepresentation of Black students and staff in our Faculty and a general failure to reflect and celebrate Black perspectives in our reading lists, events programme, teaching and scholarship. In recent years, we have made some important progress by, for example, establishing in 2019 a new senior leadership role of Vice Dean for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; running Widening Participation summer schools (in partnership with the Sutton Trust) and Access to Justice summer schools for Year 12 students from Widening Participation backgrounds; appointing a BAME Attainment Lead with responsibility for closing the attainment gap between BAME and white students; creating in 2019 a Decolonizing Law module on our LLM programme; joining the Access UCL contextual offer scheme for students from underrepresented groups; establishing in 2019 a Laws Race Equality Network for BAME staff, students and alumni; conducting through the UCL Judicial Institute empirical research for the Lammy Review on the unfair treatment of BAME groups by the criminal justice system; and providing through the Centre for Access to Justice free legal advice to vulnerable and diverse communities in Stratford. UCL Laws is also proud to be one of a number of Universities who participate in the Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholarship scheme, which is designed to address the disproportionate underrepresentation in large commercial law firms and other City institutions of Black men from less socially mobile backgrounds. 

However, we acknowledge that these actions do not go far enough and that we must do more. To this end, we commit to implementing real and meaningful action to address some of the structural barriers that the Black community have faced. As a starting point, we commit to taking the following strategic actions:   

  • Embed the Inclusive Curriculum into our teaching;
  • Promote the use of ethnically diverse panels for staff recruitment, promotion and student admissions procedures; 
  • Promote more ethnically diverse speakers and panels at Faculty events;
  • Make use of the Equality Act positive action provision (endorsed by UCL Council) for staff recruitment and internal secondment in ‘equal merit’ cases involving BAME underrepresented applicants;
  • Diversify Faculty imagery both in Bentham House and on the Faculty website to foster a sense of belonging for BAME staff and students; 
  • Require compulsory online unconscious bias training for staff involved in staff recruitment, promotion and student admission processes; 
  • Promote the career progression of BAME academic and professional services staff by actively supporting their involvement and participation in tailored UCL and cross-institutional schemes including the B-MEntor Academic Mentoring Scheme, the UCL Inclusive Advocacy scheme and the BAME Emerging Leaders programme;
  • Urgently review Widening Participation initiatives and admissions processes to assess their fairness and impact in the recruitment of Black students;  
  • Carry out an Equality Impact Assessment with a view to launching a new PhD scholarship in 2021-2022 aimed specifically at Black students; 
  • Openly publish Faculty data on the ethnic and gender pay gap in 2021-2022 and investigate issues of intersectionality;  
  • Build Faculty links with the newly established Sarah Parker Redmond Centre for the Study of Racism.

The Faculty will regularly review and monitor with our Black students, staff and alumni our progress in implementing these measures and will work collaboratively to develop new policies aimed at promoting equality for Black applicants, students and staff.

These actions are part of the Faculty’s wider policies on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which aim to tackle both racism and other forms of discrimination and injustice against groups with protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010.