Solidarity with East Asian and Southeast Asian staff and students at UCL after Covid-19: statement by UCL UCU, September 15, 2020

  • East Asian and southeast Asian countries contribute 8% of students and 4% of staff at UK universities, and 40% of foreign students. At one to two per cent of the UK population, east and southeast Asians constitute one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the country. The significance of this population is clear.
  • In London alone racist or religious attacks have risen 15% in a single year. In July when lockdown was eased, the figure from the spring doubled. If we concentrate on east and southeast Asians, such incidents have trebled. The Metropolitan Police acknowledge Covid-19 is being used as the excuse to attack people of what they describe as ‘oriental’ appearance. A UCL student from Singapore was physically assaulted on Oxford Street and told, “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country!”.
  • Comparable numbers in the rest of the UK for the same period aren’t yet available but anecdotal evidence suggests London reflects the national experience.


  • In the light of this UCL UCU would like to make it clear east Asians and southeast Asians living in the UK are not to blame for the Covid -19 pandemic. Ironically, they have been at the forefront of the fight against Covid-19, notably as key workers in the NHS. Others have run food shops, pharmacies and takeaways, offering essential services in the neighbourhood when other outlets were closed.
  • UCL UCU believes everyone has the right to be free of abuse and harm based on their ethnicity or skin colour. Within the university sector, east Asian and southeast Asian students and staff deserve to be recognized for their positive contribution. They deserve protection against racism. UCU puts equality “at the heart” of its work and opposes race discrimination in “whatever form it takes”. UCL UCU accordingly stands in solidarity with east and southeast Asian staff and students.


  • UCL UCU therefore asks members to report all incidents of racism or hate against east Asian and southeast Asians on or off-campus. UCL UCU will resist the racialized framing of Covid-19 in any communication we encounter.
  • UCL UCU calls upon its members, in the foreseeable phase of Covid-19, to engage with east Asian and southeast Asian students and staff about their concerns with a view to making them feel secure and wanted by UCL and the UK
  • UCL UCU supports east Asian and southeast Asian members in setting up a network, perhaps called East Asian and Southeast Asian Network, for students and staff at all levels at UCL and in all departments at UCL, communicating via ‘EASEAnetwork@ucl.ac.uk’ and/ or social media, to share concerns and experiences arising from Covid-19.
  • Finally, UCL UCU encourages UCL researchers studying the Covid-19 experience of minorities to include east Asians and southeast Asians in the scope of their research


  1. UUK 2019, International facts and figureshttps://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/International/Documents/2019/International%20facts%20and%20figures%20slides.pdf
  2. https://www.endthevirusofracism.com/about
  3. https://www.met.police.uk/sd/stats-and-data/met/hate-crime-dashboard/
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/aug/29/far-right-using-coronavirus-as-excuse-to-attack-chinese-and-south-east-asians?fbclid=IwAR3CnbEIxs0M_DE_PEU_eyX5dl1cCAQco6jFE0qmM99QS0-wcS1_mwuZTdw