Social Responsibility Support

Black Lives Matter: Continuing the conversation

As Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the University, my role is to challenge the University to ensure it creates a truly diverse and accepting space where all students and staff can thrive and feel like they belong. The current pandemic and events in America have highlighted inequality in a forceful way. Black Lives Matter have led the call to find out more about inequality and take action. Email accounts of senior staff in UK universities continue to be filled with genuine concern from students demanding that institutions stop, listen and take action now!

We’ve been here before, but this time it does feel different. Black and Minority Ethnic voices have been joined by the voices of White ‘allies’ calling for change too.  I was particularly struck by an article by one our students, Laura Rose Smith – The ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement: Now is the time to stop and learn. It was really moving to see that Laura had taken the time to go on a journey of discovery to better understand some of the issues Black people face.  We need to encourage others to do the same as Laura because some of the responses I hear, highlight a real lack of understanding of what BLM means and demonstrates the need to educate further.

Manchester is already a diverse institution.  Currently 32% of UK undergraduate students at the University are from a BAME background with 4.4% being Black. The number of BAME students increases year on year but we know we need to do more to  ensure that BAME students have a great experience whilst they are here.

Whilst we are rightly focussed on developing new actions and responding to our student community, we should also acknowledge that there are some activities already happening. Below are just some examples of things that we are already doing. 

Activities targeted at attracting BAME  students to Manchester

  • Black Lawyers Matter Outreach: A project targeted at black males to raise awareness of careers within the legal profession supported by Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) professionals. The project consists of in-school workshops and campus events. Further info: https://issuu.com/bls-media/docs/bame_autumn_2019_online_ (p.54-55).
  • ‘With Insight’ Mentoring: This mentoring scheme links Black undergraduates from Russell Group universities with Black state school students who have been identified as having the potential to achieve AAB at A-levels. Students are provided with monthly one-to-one mentoring from inspirational role models.
  • Scholarships for Black males:  There are a number of scholarships targeted at Black male students at the University. Our Student Recruitment and WP team do a lot of BAME focused outreach work and they also work with our Chancellor, Lemn Sissay to offer scholarships in Law.  We also support the national Stephen Lawrence scholarships, offered to first year students.
  • Black History Month: working with the Race Relations Resource Centre, a programme of outreach activities is delivered each year on campus and in schools. We are  developing a Black History Trail on campus which will include a series of workshops developed by Black students to highlight the pioneering work of Black people in a range of subject areas.
  • Staff support for BAME societies: Support is given to BAME societies that coordinate and host events for Black students. Training and support is also given to Black students who deliver outreach work in schools that is targeted at Black pupils.
  • The Manchester Access Programme: The University’s Manchester Access Programme (MAP) supports the access of Greater Manchester students from under-represented backgrounds into The University of Manchester. Around 3/4 of the cohort are from a BAME background.
  • Addressing gaps in student access: A group has been established to look at gaps in access to the University for BAME students and what more needs to be done to address these gaps. Focus groups with BAME first year students about their experience of applying and starting at the University have taken place to ensure that the student voice helps to shape recommendations.

Current students

  • An online Equality, Diversity and Inclusion unit. Students can take this UCIL unit as part of their undergraduate studies. The unit aims to equip students with Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) based knowledge, skills and attributes, which are fundamental to employability and effective working within our global and interconnected world.
  • The Diversity and Inclusion Student Ambassador Programme which is delivered through the Students’ Union aims to improve the student experience for BAME undergraduate students. There are currently five Diversity and Inclusion Student Ambassadors, who focus on improving outcomes for BAME students.  During academic year 2019/20 the Ambassadors have worked with staff in all areas on several projects.  For example, facilitated two round table events with BAME students on ‘How do I fit into my curriculum?’ and ‘What does my Uni do for me?’.  They are developing a guidance document on the potential differential impact of COVID on BAME students.
  • Equality, diversity and inclusion in the Curriculum. All three faculties were involved in a project to explore equality, diversity and inclusion in the curriculum in collaboration with Advance HE. A final report, including recommendations, has been produced.
  • Employability. The Careers service run a BAME Careers and Beyond event bringing in BAME grads and alumni to talk about their experience in the workplace. This has proved really successful and last year around 80 BAME students attended and 20 BAME alumni/recruiters.  The Careers Service also offer mentoring for BAME students through Manchester Gold.

We know that words alone are not enough and are currently working with senior staff at the University and the Students’ Union to develop actions in response to clear demands from our university community. We all have a role to play in championing equality, diversity and inclusion in the institution.  Together I genuinely believe we can make a real difference.

Patrick Johnson

Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Photo by Cody Engel on Unsplash

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