New guidance published to help universities tackle racial harassment on campus

Our sister organisation Universities UK (UUK) has today [24 November 2020] published a series of recommendations aimed at supporting universities to tackle racial harassment in higher education.

Tackling Racial Harassment in Higher Education is the product of an advisory group convened by UUK in October last year and responds to many of the recommendations in the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) Universities Challenged inquiry into racial harassment.

Among the recommendations are a series of practical steps that all university leaders can implement immediately:

  • Publicly commit priority status to tackle racial harassment.
  • Engage directly with students and staff with lived experience of racial harassment.
  • Review current policies and procedures and develop new institution-wide strategies for tackling racial harassment.
  • Improve awareness and understanding of racism, racial harassment, white privilege and microaggressions among all staff and students, including through anti-racist training.

The guidance was informed by experts in the field and carried out in-depth consultation with panels of exclusively Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students and staff with lived experience of racial harassment. In May, Universities Scotland ran two further virtual focus groups with students of colour who are studying at universities in Scotland to contribute to the research.

Responding to the publication of the guidance, Professor Gerry McCormac, Convener of Universities Scotland, said:

“Universities UK’s new guidance is an important tool in the battle against racism. Racism is abhorrent and has no place at university, nor indeed anywhere. The new guidance for universities is timely, given the spotlight that has been recently trained on racial injustice. In August this year, Scottish Principals made a joint public declaration of anti-racism.

“Last year’s EHRC report made for difficult reading. Universities committed then to accelerate action to eradicate racism in all its forms and assisted the advisory group led by UUK, to conduct research and listen to students with lived experience of racism to create best practice guidance. There’s more to do but I’m heartened by the leadership shown so far as the sector continues its work to eradicate this blight on society.”


  • In August 2020, Scottish Principals made a public declaration of anti-racism and committed to tackling racial harassment on university campuses. The declaration was made during a webinar hosted by Advance HE as part of their Scottish Funding Council (SFC) project Tackling racism on campus: Raising awareness and creating the conditions for confident conversations’.
  • The project, funded by SFC and supported by Universities Scotland, aims to develop evidence-based resources to be used by Scottish universities and colleges as they respond to the findings highlighted in the EHRC inquiry report.
  • A set of case studies accompanies the guidance. Two Scottish universities (University of Glasgow and Abertay University) are featured. The set of case studies can be viewed here.
  • Universities Scotland is also leading a project on student misconduct which looks at tackling incidents of race hate and microaggressions and again addresses one of the themes in the EHRC report. The project is keen to do so in both a trauma-informed way and in a way that addresses the systemic whiteness of the processes and policies that students of colour find themselves having to navigate.