Addressing contemporary and historic racism

The University has taken a number of important steps to strengthen its commitment to addressing contemporary and historic inequalities with respect to race.

The Race Equality and Anti-Racist Sub-Committee, led by Professor Rowena Arshad, is undertaking a range of activity which aims to institutionalise racial equality, address structural racism and promote the inclusion of Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff and students.  

Recent work includes developing better support for students and staff who may be the victim of prejudice and racial micro-aggressions due to misconceptions around the Covid-19 pandemic.

Through the Sub-Committee’s Action Plan, the group is also focussing on a review of the curriculum, further improving report and support procedures, improving the representation of BAME students and staff and promoting an anti-racist culture on campus.

The work has been informed by a range of research including a Thematic Review of Student Support for BAME Students, the Equality and Diversity Monitoring and Research Committee’s 2018/19 Report on Ethnicity, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission Report (2019) on tackling racial harassment.

Issues raised by student and staff petitions as a result of the events related to the Black Lives Matter movement have also been key to guiding the Sub-Committee’s direction.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Mathieson, comments:

Principal Peter Mathieson

"The University of Edinburgh will benefit from an honest, factual and evidence-based analysis of the lessons we can learn from our past."

Historical review

Experts from a range of fields are also to be brought together to inform how the University addresses its historical links with race.

The steering group, chaired by Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, will create a forum for respectful debate, seek views from local and global communities and provide recommendations regarding the outcomes from a review of the University’s history with respect to race.

Developments around the membership of the committee and details of its work will be published in the coming weeks.

Respectful debate

Universities are characterised by providing an environment for debate on these important issues. Recent years have also seen political establishments, institutions and organisations across the world reflect upon their links with significant historic figures with respect to race.

The decision to temporarily re-name the University’s David Hume Tower, until the full review of the University's links to the past was complete, sparked major debate.

On 22 January, the University will host a panel event bringing together students and academics to discuss the renaming of the tower and the philosopher’s legacy more generally.

Wide-ranging panel

Those leading the Hume discussion represent a range of views and disciplines from across the University.

Esteemed academics will include Professor Tommy Curry and Dr Mazviita Chirimuuta from Philosophy and Professors Thomas Ahnert and Sir Tom Devine from History.

Third-year student Elizabeth Lund, the author of the orginal petition calling for the name change of David Hume Tower, will also take part in the debate.

The event will take place online on Friday 22 January, 3-5pm and is open to the public.

Related links

Race Equality and Anti-Racist Sub-Committee

Thematic Review 2018-19: Black and Minority Ethnic Students

Equality and Diversity Monitoring and Research Committee (EDMARC) 

Equality and Human Rights Commission report

Join the debate: Renaming of David Hume Tower