Increase racial diversity

Report recommendation: Strive to increase the racial diversity of students and staff and to reduce the degree attainment gap, in line with the University of Glasgow's Equality and Diversity Policy. Include the awarding of scholarships to students of African-Caribbean descent to help address their under-representation in the University.

Understanding racism, transforming university cultures

The significant body of research and programme of reparatory justice has provided a foundation for the University to refocus and address current staff and student experiences of racism and racial inequality. In February 2021, we published a major new report and action plan, “Understanding Racism, Transforming University Cultures”.

As a direct response to a 2019 Equality and Human Rights Commission report, which uncovered widespread evidence of racial harassment on university campuses, we established a project group to consider the recommendations and to research the local impact at our University. The group met several times and considered a range of data and evidence, including surveying around 500 students, as well as a carrying out in-depth interviews with 20 ethnic minority staff asking them about their experience of racism while studying or working at the University.

As a result of this work, we have published a comprehensive report and action plan to help tackle racism and racial harassment on campus as part of our effort to address racial inequality.

Understanding racism, transforming university cultures

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor on the launch of the report and action plan.

Summary of report findings

  • One in two ethnic minority students had been racially harassed highlighting a significant variance with the handful of student racial harassment cases captured by our University processes.
  • Half of all ethnic minority students reported being harassed between two and five times since beginning their studies at the University of Glasgow while one in 20 students reported more than 20 separate incidents of harassment.
  • A reluctance to report such harassment because of a lack of confidence that such incidents would be treated seriously combined with a fear of reprisals from fellow students and staff.
  • Among staff, coded forms of racism were more prevalent than overt racism. Such coded but persistent racial harassment has a corrosive and scarring effect on the physical and mental health of ethnic minority staff.
  • More than a quarter of ethnic minority students who took part in the survey say the University of Glasgow has a serious problem with racism.

Alongside such interpersonal racism, the report also found evidence of structural disadvantage facing ethnic minority staff and students including:

  • A statistically significant degree awarding gap between Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students in 2018/19 of over 10% in comparison to their White peers.
  • The disproportionate precarity of our ethnic minority staff who are between two and three times more likely to be employed on fixed term contracts.
  • No ethnic minority representation on the three major decision-making bodies of the University – Senior Management Group, Court and Senate.

Action plan

The resulting recommendations in the agreed action plan include:

  • Senior Management Group to publicly commit to taking an anti-racist approach to University processes and systems, promoting a zero tolerance policy to racial harassment on campus.
  • Devising and developing pre-entry courses for staff and students on acceptable codes of behaviour at the University.
  • Building a strand of decolonising the curriculum into the University’s next Learning and Teaching Strategy.
  • Racial equality/Anti-racism campaign on campus.
  • Specific reference made to racial harassment in the University’s
    • Equality and Diversity Policy
    • Dignity at Work and Study Policy
    • Student Codes of Conduct
    • Complaints process.
  • Recruitment of new Respect Advisers to ensure ethnic diversity.
  • Anti-racist and cultural awareness training for all staff, prioritising those involved in staff or student investigation processes.
  • Implementation of further anti-racist training beyond the mandatory requirement for the certain roles including the Senior Management Group and the University’s Senior Leaders Forum.

Progress made to deliver the action plan will be reported on Understanding Racism, Transforming University Cultures.

James McCune Smith Scholarships

Undergraduate scholarships

We have 30 undergraduate scholarships available for students of African/African-Caribbean backgrounds. The scholarship supports students who could face financial difficulties taking up their place to study at the University.

The scholarships are named after American abolitionist and medic James McCune Smith. McCune Smith was the first African American to achieve a medical degree, graduating from the University in 1837. The new £90.6 million learning and teaching hub, which opened in 2021, is also named in his honour.

PhD scholarship programme

In November 2021, we launched a new employer-supported scholarship programme to fund Black UK students to undertake PhD research.

The James McCune Smith PhD Scholarship programme will provide successful applicants with access to external mentors, six-month placements, leadership training, community-building activities and networking opportunities.

A total of 10 fully-funded, four-year James McCune Smith Scholarships are open for applications from UK-domiciled Black students to undertake postgraduate study in any discipline. The successful applicants’ research will begin in October 2022.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “We’re proud to be launching our James McCune Smith PhD Scholarship programme today, 156 years to the day after this remarkable man’s death.

“We know that there is a real issue of under-representation when it comes to Black students pursuing PhD study, right across the higher education sector. We are committed to taking action to encourage more Black students and researchers to join the University.

“We’ve worked closely with Black academics and postgraduate students to develop the programme, as well as with employers from the public, private and third sectors. The scholarship programme provides a great opportunity for fully-funded learning with significant employer support, and we’re looking forward to welcoming our first cohort of scholars next year.”

Eight of the James McCune Smith PhD Scholarships are funded by the University, and are open for applications for PhD students working in any of the disciplines represented across the University’s four Colleges.

Two more are funded by GSK, which has partnered with the University to support scholarships in medicinal chemistry and organic synthesis.