Skip to content

Reports Part of series: Race & Education: BERA Small Grants Fund research reports

Envisioning a gold standard: Understanding higher education institutions’ outlook for race equality policies, practices & future initiatives

Supported by BERA’s Small Grants Fund, this study considered race, racism and racial equality within UK higher education institutions (HEIs).

Although there has been significant progress in developing balanced institutional frameworks to identify and address barriers to Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff and students, such as BERA’s Race Equality Policy and Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter (REC), there remains a challenge in agreeing the ‘gold’ standard for tackling racism and other forms of discrimination in higher education. Advance HE’s REC provides a framework through which institutions work to identify and self-reflect on institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff and students. Member institutions develop initiatives and solutions for action, and can apply for a Bronze or Silver REC award, depending on their level of progress.

This project aimed to:

  • Investigate how HEIs’ stance on tackling racial disparities for students and staff is influenced by scholarship and the UK policy landscape.
  • Understand the possibilities for, and limitations within, leveraging metrics, statistical evidence, narratives and testimonies of racism and racial inequalities to account for individuals’ multiple attributes, identities and values.

The project has recently concluded, and the dissemination of the findings will take place as a free online webinar on 30 September 2022. Please visit this link for details on how to register (alternatively visit the author’s website to register or view information). The webinar will include a summary of the findings in more detail, alongside some activities to help participants further advance their understanding of race and intersectionality.

Report summary

Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter (REC) is subscribed to by 96 institutional members of which 23 have received Bronze REC awards. The REC’s mission is to ‘improve the representation, experience, progression and success of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff and students within higher education’ (Advance HE). This study analysed ‘action plans’ submitted by REC awardees to understand the critical and most common interventions proposed for addressing racism and racial discrimination and inequalities in higher education institutions (HEIs). The study invited equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) champions and race equality leads from a range of institutions. Institutions were categorised by their affiliation or status with the REC into three groups: (i) those with existing Bronze REC status; (ii) institutions that have subscribed to be charter members but have not been awarded REC status yet (this could mean applications are underway or pending); and (iii) institutions that are not named or not part of the core 92 institutional members currently listed as subscribed members.  

The rationale for using this grouping was to understand how interventions are selected and evaluated as being successful at institutions with different levels of commitment to the REC, and to help identify how Action Plans (which are the detailed plans set out to tackle race and racism discrimination and inequalities at the HEI) seek to address issues of intersectionality. One area of investigation was the anticipation and identification of some of the imminent risks of proposing development and infrastructural change that might further create discrimination against one or more groups that identify with the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010. The aim of this study was to highlight essential issues for envisioning a Gold REC award as there is currently only ‘Silver’ and ‘Bronze’ status REC award categories.   


Profile picture of Melissa Jogie
Melissa Jogie, Dr

Senior Lecturer in Education Practice at University of Roehampton

Melissa is an Early Career Researcher in Education at the University of Roehampton, leading on an institution-wide initiative to develop a research and knowledge exchange culture and citizenship across staff and postgraduate students. In 2021 she...