Universities Scotland

Race Equality Toolkit

Learning and Teaching

Institutional Actions

#2Key institutional areas for action in learning, teaching and assessment

Each institution should identify a senior manager, preferably a senior Vice-Principal or the Vice-Principal for Learning and Teaching, to evaluate how the institution performs in the following key areas. Taking appropriate action in the following important fields will also contribute to compliance with the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 guidance for higher education institutions in the area of learning and teaching.
Key questionsPossible action steps

How does your institution convey that it expects staff and students to take matters of equality and anti-discrimination seriously?

Institutions should consider how equality and anti-discrimination issues may achieve a higher profile throughout their operations: e.g. the location of equality and diversity statements on the university website; having a strap-line on the university homepage; ensuring that the general ethos of the establishment recognises diversity; reflecting through communications, displays of work, wall decorations, etc., that Scotland is a diverse society.

At institutional and course/school levels, race equality impact assessments take place to provide an evidenced and public means of recording action and progress in this area.

How does the institution’s race equality strategy link with the university’s internationalisation strategy?

Consideration of race equality matters will assist an institution’s capacity to support the internationalisation initiative.

Race equality initiatives can assist in developing inclusive approaches to informal and formal curricula, which will benefit international students and can be a significant contributor to sustaining an institution’s internationalisation strategy.

This may be even more important for institutions that are located in areas which do not offer natural support in areas like cultural diversity through community networks which are multicultural. University internationalisation strategies should be both outward-facing (new markets/opportunities) and inward-facing (new perspectives/staff and students).

Universities Scotland in their leaflet entitled “A Commitment to Quality for International Students“ state:

Cultural Awareness
Scottish universities will aim to ensure that their academic staff are aware of any cultural complexities of communicating effectively with international students due to language or cultural barriers and will be supported by professional development training, thus helping to eliminate any prospective cultural clashes and misunderstandings with the rising number of international students they teach and supervise. In this way institutions will also be meeting their explicit and implicit obligations to actively promote equity and diversity, ensuring that international students are not unreasonably disadvantaged by language or cultural barriers they may otherwise have experienced.”

Does your institution provide clear, accessible information to academic staff about how race equality legislation impacts on learning and teaching?

Information should be placed in appropriate and accessible sections of the university website; briefing sessions could be offered at school/departmental level and concise leaflets produced for distribution to staff.

School/department-specific seminars tailored to the requirements of specific professional areas could also be offered.

Staff should be expected to develop their professional understanding of race equality matters.

Are race equality issues considered in related areas of learning and teaching such as those related to the employability framework for students?

Ability to be comfortable with diversity as well as being able to mainstream equality and anti-discrimination skills into the workplace should be seen as relevant employability skills.

Race and other equality issues should be explored from an employability perspective at different phases in the student life-cycle.

Are race and other equality issues part of the university’s knowledge transfer programme?

Course deliverers for CPD programmes designed to enhance learning and teaching should be asked to consider how race equality issues could be mainstreamed into their programme — e.g. courses on effective learning, writing of course descriptors, conducting recruitment, deciding admission procedures, and preparing for fieldwork should factor in issues of equality, including race. This enables equality issues to become core rather than remaining as ’bolt-on” courses and on the margin.

Is there CPD for other staff who support and work with students on matters related to equality and diversity?

To ensure a whole-institution approach, staff who provide support services for students should be provided with opportunities to consider how race equality issues impact on those services.

Consider, for example, how libraries could play a more proactive role in supporting race equality in learning and teaching and curriculum design, and how accommodation services could work to promote good relations between people of different racial groups.

Does induction for new staff include sessions on key aspects ofequality legislation and the impact of these on practice?

New staff should automatically be briefed about equality issues, including race equality, and the relevance of these issues to learning, teaching and assessment.

Teaching staff should also be encouraged to consider these issues in university-wide committees they might sit on, such as library committees.

Do induction sessions for new students include discussion about equality and anti-discrimination?

Students should be informed by school/departmental staff of the university’s equality and anti-discrimination policy for students and how the university, school/department and individual tutors offer support to students who face harassment or discrimination.

Tutors supporting students (home and international) need to be given appropriate information to pass on to students, for instance the university’s stance on dealing with harassment and discrimination.

Placing such statements in student handbooks is a start, but explicit reference to the issues at induction will provide a clear signal to students on how seriously the university takes issues of equality and anti-discrimination.

Is guidance provided to all course organisers that induction sessions or group work outwith class times should be organised taking into account accessibility and diversity issues?

Course organisers are reminded that induction or initial sessions for “getting to know” new students should be held in neutral and accessible places and not in places that are likely to be inaccessible or inapproprate for some students.

Course organisers should also be reminded that they need to provide guidance for students engaged in group work, reminding them to take on board accessibility issues, and discouraging them from organising meetings in pubs

Do mechanisms exist to seek student views on matters related to equality and diversity (including race equality) as part of the university’s framework of continuous improvement of its services?

Student class representatives on various university committees should be reminded that they should also seek equality- and diversity-related views from their fellow students to feed into the various committees they sit on.

In addition a strong student voice should be represented on university/school/college equality and diversity committees or working groups.

Consulting and involving students (as a key stakeholder group) is part of the public sector duty requirements of equality legislation.

Is clear guidance provided to staff on how to deal with racism and racial harassment within different learning and teaching situations?

Clear guidance should be drawn up that advises teaching staff on how to support students who may face racism or racial discrimination within a learning and teaching context — for example, racism encountered during placement.

Are equality and anti-discrimination provisions written into contracts with placement providers?

Is clear guidance provided to students on how they may report racism or racial harassment, and are there mechanisms in place to support students?

Institutions should work with students to develop clear central guidance on reporting and addressing instances of racism or racial harassment whether on campus, in class or on placement.

Attention should also be given to a range of possible interactions. e.g. between students, between students and lecturers or members of university staff or between students and visitors to the university.

They should also provide guidance to university staff about different types of racism and racial harassment e.g. direct and overt, indirect and subtle.

Does the institution collect relevant data on the progression and experiences of minority ethnic students(home and international)?

Universities should commission research on the progression and experiences of minority ethnic students as a means of improving provision for these students. Such data should be both quantitative and qualitative and it should be possible to extract information relating to different categories of students e.g. home/international, visible or non-visible minorities. The gathering of such information will assist institutions in complying with the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 both in terms of monitoring performance and informing consultations on developing race equality schemes.

Does the institution have mentoring initiatives for students?

Mentoring/buddying strategies are particularly useful for international students in acculturating to a course, institution and community.

Consideration of a formal mentoring/buddying system, prioritised initially for international students, should be explored by course leaders and the institution’s international office and learning and teaching offices.

Does the institution provide cultural and faith awareness information seminars for staff?

A combination of formats should be adopted in delivering the seminars.

Centrally offered seminars would probably be generic and provide basic information about cultural and faith matters of relevance for learning and teaching.

Course-specific seminars focusing on specific professional requirements could be offered.

Does the institution provide guidance to staff on faith requirements when planning for assessment?

Institutions should provide a Calendar of Religious Festivals, such as the SHAP Calendar.

They could also consider using on-line tutorials and assessment (where appropriate) as means of avoiding clashes with religious observances.

Does the institution provide specific seminars to staff to help them develop an accessible curriculum for bilingual students?

Seminars on how lecturers can adapt practice to support bilingual learners should be provided.

Does the institution provide appropriate support to bilingual students requiring learning support?

The institution should prepare a policy on supporting bilingualism and should provide time for Learning Support staff to become fully engaged with strategies for supporting bilingual students to develop their use of English for academic purposes.

Does the institution provide clear guidelines on plagiarism, bearing in mind the diversity of its student population?

Clear central guidance on what constitutes plagiarism should be available and explained to students as part of induction.

Such guidance needs to exemplify what plagiarism means in practice rather than consisting of more prohibitory statements.

Such guidance should be written in a way that is accessible for students whose first language is not English and whose experiences of academic literacy and conventions may be from out with the UK.

See the Robert Gordon University Plagiarism Project. See also the section Do all students understand what plagiarism means? on this website.

Does the university embed race equality into its quality enhancement and quality assurance processes?

In their work to improve quality of provision as well as enhance the student experience, universities should explore how they can embed race equality into existing quality frameworks e.g. does each teaching programme review discuss issues of equality and diversity?

When taking part in Enhancement-led Institutional Reviews (ELIR) or other similar reviews, does the institution proactively request that equality issues be discussed or commented on?

Is the institution proactive in establishing partnerships with agencies in Scotland (at national and local level) working with visible minority ethnic people?

Partnerships could assist the university to

  • support students on matters related to faith, culture and ethnicity, e.g. offering advice, suitable placements, information and contacts;
  • provide additional support networks for students facing racism and racial harassment;
  • be a source of information for lecturers who wish to consider cultural/anti-racist issues for their practice or course content;
  • be a consultative forum for the university in meeting its obligations under equality legislation.

Does the institution host “road shows” across the institution showcasing good practice in learning, teaching and assessment?

Good practice within a university should be highlighted and shared.

Examples of how colleagues are taking forward race equality issues in learning, teaching and assessment are useful sources of ideas for other staff.

An audit of good practice will also recognise efforts within the institution and value the work of the staff concerned.

How are race equality issues considered in the work of key structures and committees within the university e.g. Senate, Court?

An annual progress report should be presented to Court demonstrating how the university has met milestones and targets related to race equality from its Race Equality Action Plan or Single Equality Scheme.

Does the university have dedicated staff to take forward equality and diversity work? How are these staff networked into the decision-making structures of the university?

To be most effective, staff working on equality and diversity should be located within the hub of key decision-making points within the university, e.g. within the Principal’s office.