Supporting the University of Kent to advance antiracism

Supporting the University of Kent to advance antiracism

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The university recognised it needed a strategic approach to advancing race equity

The University of Kent identified the need to address the racial inequalities for both staff and students that were evident across the institution. Many members of Kent’s community actively advocate for change and there were pockets of grassroots good practice across the university.

However, the route to setting strategic direction had been unclear, and the university community felt little action had taken place. The university needed a strategy to support a culture shift that would tackle issues of structural racism.

Nous worked with the university community to prepare a comprehensive strategy

The Nous team worked in close partnership with the university’s leadership and a reference group comprising members from across the university and Kent Union.

As a first step, Nous reviewed outcomes data to better understand issues for racially minoritised staff and students. Following this, we worked with the reference group and other university staff through interviews to understand the underlying issues contributing to race inequalities. Finally, we facilitated workshops with the reference group to develop the strategy’s vision, objectives and detailed actions.

During the process, four themes emerged:

  1. Promoting equal opportunities was not enough; the university needed to be bold in its approach to advancing antiracism.
  2. The strategy needed to a wide scope to begin to dismantle barriers created by structural racism.
  3. Senior leaders needed to be accountable for change.
  4. Progressing antiracism would require continuous action in a changing context.

The university has committed to promoting antiracism, with leaders held to account

Kent is now one of the few universities in the UK with a strategy committed to advancing antiracism. The executives are all committed to its success and have been assigned responsibility for delivering their relevant objectives.

The longer-term aims of the strategy are for Kent to act as an advocate for antiracism beyond the walls of its campuses – both locally and globally. The actions to support these aims will reinforce the advancement of antiracism internally by creating greater opportunities and recognition for antiracism work.

What you can learn from the university

Being bold and making a public statement about shortcomings on racial equity is an important first step.

Listening carefully, testing and iterating the core themes of the strategy with those with lived experience is vital as part of any antiracism strategy and action plan.

Issues of structural racism can only be addressed through a comprehensive strategy that touches on the experiences of staff and students in all aspects of their university engagement.

Assigning accountability to relevant executive leaders is crucial for ensuring action on delivery.

Advocating for antiracism beyond the university campus has mutually reinforcing outcomes.