Universities Scotland

Race Equality Toolkit

Learning and Teaching

What this Toolkit is about


2.1Race equality as part of quality enhancement

HEIs are already engaged in a process of continuous improvement assisted by quality assurance frameworks and enhancement themes. Moving forward in the spirit of the proposed Equality Act, institutions should make more explicit how such frameworks and themes take into account issues of diversity and difference when planning for excellence in learning and teaching. The sections in this resource are intended to assist this process in relation to race equality. It can also be used as a support for self-reflection and evaluation.

Developing critical intellectual curiosity concerning issues of inclusion, equity and diversity, as well as acquiring the knowledge and confidence to live and work in an increasingly diverse and complex global world, are all skills and attributes that are important for the twenty-first-century graduate. The section in the Scottish Funding Council’s Corporate Plan for 2009–2012 relating to employability and skills stresses the importance of having a system that enhances

student confidence, self-reliance, motivation, knowledge and capacities in ways that meet the needs and expectations of employers in Scotland, the rest of the UK and internationally

SFC Corporate Plan, Outcome 1, p. 20

Higher education has a vital contribution to make in preparing students for work and active citizenship in an increasingly diverse world. By embedding race equality matters as part of learning and teaching and curriculum design, HEIs can

2.2Not a matter of numbers

Embedding race equality into learning and teaching should not be dependent on the configuration of a student population. In the past, the presence of only low numbers of minority ethnic students has led to mistaken notions that for some HEIs race equality is an irrelevant issue. Equally, many people assume that racial discrimination only affects visible minorities. Racism and racial discrimination can be experienced by any individual.

Embedding race equality is part of good practice and should happen regardless of the numbers of minority ethnic students within a course, department or institution. Providing students with opportunities to critically reflect on issues of race equality and diversity will assist in raising student awareness and also enhance students’ ability to work in a multi-racial Scotland and within an international context.

2.3Useful questions adapted from the former Commission for Racial Equality (CRE)

The former Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) in Scotland, as part of their advice to further and higher education institutions, asked some useful questions in relation to race equality which are worth reflecting on:

Teaching and learning

  1. What do you do to encourage students to understand and value cultural and ethnic diversity?
  2. How do you make sure that your teaching creates an environment free of prejudice, discrimination and harassment, where students can contribute fully and freely and feel valued?
  3. How does your teaching take account of students’ cultural backgrounds, language needs, and different learning styles?
  4. How do you make sure you make resources available to meet any specific needs that students from particular racial groups might have?

Course and programme designs

  1. How does your approach to course/programme design deal with questions of racism and diversity?
  2. What do you do to take account of the needs of students from different racial groups when planning the course? How do you build race equality aims into all your programmes?
  3. How do you make sure that your programmes are monitored and their curricula assessed to see that they meet the expectations of students from different racial groups?
  4. How do your extra-curricular activities and events cater for the interests or needs of all students, and take account of any concerns about religion or culture?

Assessment of learning

  1. What procedures do you have to ensure that assessment requirements are clearly understood by all students, including those for whom English is an additional language?
  2. How can your current assessment instruments and procedures be adapted to promote race equality?
  3. How do your assessment instruments and procedures encourage inclusion (e.g. by scheduling deadlines and timetabling exams as far as possible to take cognisance of religious observances)?
  4. Do your courses and programmes assist students to understand what plagiarism means?

2.4Links to other equality issues and legislation

Promoting race equality and good relations are part of delivering equality and fairness within educational establishments. However, it is important to make links with other areas of equality and diversity. Key initiatives familiar to the sector, such as the Teachability project, provide excellent ideas about how disability issues can be addressed in the context of learning, teaching and assessment, from which the principles of inclusive practice can be readily transferred.

To make equality and fairness meaningful cornerstones of educational practice and the institutional ethos in Scotland, it is helpful to be aware of the range of equality and diversity issues. It is also important to contemporise thinking about equality issues by recognising that fixed ideas of identity or culture are no longer applicable. All academics need to take account of the complexity and fluidity of identities that are likely to face them in the twenty-first-century classroom, laboratory or research project. Embedding equality and good relations considerations into curriculum design processes will help bring these issues to mind at the start of each new development. Giving equal attention to all aspects of equality and the intersectionality of these equalities will assist the development of a genuinely inclusive learning, teaching and research environment.

Further information about the range of equality-related legislation can be found on the Equality Challenge Unit website. In addition, there is the Scotland Act 1998 (Schedule 5) which defines equal opportunities as

the prevention, elimination or regulation of discrimination between persons on grounds of sex or marital status, on racial grounds, or on grounds of disability, age, sexual orientation, language or social origin or of other personal attributes, including beliefs or opinions, such as religious beliefs or political opinions.

While the UK (Westminster) parliament retains the right to legislate and make regulations on equal opportunities issues, the Scotland Act enables the Scottish Parliament to “encourage“ the observance of equality regulations and to impose them as a requirement on public bodies, which includes higher education institutions.