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Issue 468, 4 June 2001

Toolkit tackles racism in HE

The first full-scale audit looking at institutional racism within a university in the light of the Stephen Lawrence inquiry is under way at Leeds. The audit is a HEFCE Innovations funded project to stimulate and promote debate about how institutional racism can be effectively challenged and action prioritised by the HE sector. The project, run by Dr Ian Law of the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies (CERS), aims to provide a ‘toolkit’ for assessing and tackling institutional racism in higher education.

The report into the matters arising from the murder of Stephen Lawrence highlighted the fact that: "Racism, institutional or otherwise, is not the prerogative of the police. It is clear that other agencies including those dealing with housing and education also suffer from the disease." The Race Relations Act 2000 places a statutory obligation on public bodies to eliminate institutional racism and promote equal opportunities, and plans for action must be in place by May 2002.

"While the idea came initially from the centre, we’ve had enormous support from the University," said Dr Law. "Surveys have been carried out in the past in HEIs looking at racism in relation to specific areas, but to our knowledge this is the first full-scale audit of an entire university."

Dr Law, and research fellow Dr Laura Turney, will be contacting all departments about the project, assessing equal opportunity action plans, and interviewing staff. A postal survey is to be sent to staff and students. Anyone interested in participating in the audit can contact the researchers directly.

Director of human resources, Matthew Knight commented: "This audit gives the University the opportunity to review its profile and practices in depth and to learn about what it needs to do to really get to grips with race discrimination. We strongly support the initiative and look forward to implementing an action plan based on the outcomes."

Click for further details on the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.

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