Over 200 delegates attended LJMU’s 'Keeping Race Equality on the Agenda' launch event, which included race equality experts, activists, statutory and voluntary sector organisations and HEI staff and students.
Professor Robin Leatherbarrow, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Scholarship, Research & Knowledge Transfer) and chair of LJMU Race Charter welcomed guests and speakers and highlighted the importance of race equality and the challenges it entails to the effect that there is still a lot of work to be done.
The first guest speaker, Professor David Gillborn, Director of Research and School of Education at the University of Birmingham spoke passionately on the topic From Myth to Reality: Race Equality and Education. It explored the 3 myths around race equality asserting that it will take courage at every level to effect the needed organisational and cultural change.
"Talking seriously about racism and inequality is becoming harder by the day. This launch event brought together more than 200 people with a deep commitment to racial justice, and so there is clearly a real appetite for change."
Next up was Professor Heidi Safia Mirza, Professor Emeritus of Equality Studies in Education who spoke on Respecting Difference: Challenges of Gender, Race, Faith and Culture. Heidi, first Professor of colour in England dedicated her talk to Anthony Walker She believes that despite all the various policies and activities around equality and diversity, organisations including HEIs are still struggling to achieve the much needed cultural change.
"LJMU made it possible for a wonderful, diverse and cross section of people to come together because they are committed to race equality. We left educated, energised and filled with hope, taking forward the message that race equality still matters in our places of work and where we live."
The third speaker was Dr Winston Morgan, Reader in Toxicology and Clinical Biochemistry at the University of East London. His topic was How to increase the number of Senior Black Academic and Professional Services Staff in High Education institutions. Winston underscored the fact that in some staff roles there are no BAME staff, and posed the question - why do we need more BAME staff? He then answered that the staff population would need to reflect the diversities of the student population arguing that once you have an identity gap you cannot have good outcomes so a change of impact has to be implemented now.
"I have been attending and presenting at race equality conferences for over the last 15 years and I have to say this is one of the best attended and organised. I felt honoured to be presenting alongside such distinguished colleagues as Professors Gillborn, Mirza and Stevenson. If LJMU approach the REC with the same enthusiasm and professionalism I am certain they will gain the charter mark. But more importantly, in terms of race equality, if LJMU could maintain this standard they could become a leader in the field."
The final speaker, Professor Jacqueline Stevenson, Head of Research, Sheffield Institute of Education at Sheffield Hallam University, presented BAME Degree Attainment Gap: The Black Hole of Institutional Delusion. Jacqueline identified the bias across the higher education sector.
Jacqueline commented after the event:
"By holding high profile events such as this one we can ensure that the on-going inequalities experienced by staff and students from Black and Minority ethnic backgrounds are made explicit. These events can also promote calls for action. The University is to be applauded for making such a public promise to effect change - only through such visible commitments will change ever take place."
On closing the session, Professor Robin Leatherbarrow added:
"We know that the subject of this meeting is one that needs to be at the heart of any progressive institution and we will do our best to ensure that LJMU aspires to do all it can to promote equality and diversity."
Sir Bert Massie, Equality and Diversity Champion, former Commissioner - Equality and Human Rights Commission and current LJMU governor said:
"At an excellent conference one figure stood out. Britain's universities are 300 professors of colour short of the number they should have according to population. Not only must we keep race on the agenda but ensure it is higher on the agenda."
Dominique Walker, LJMU Honorary Fellow who works for Merseyside Police commented:
"This event generated a coherent foundation to tackling race equality in higher education institutions and demonstrated the institutional self-delusions that many establishments need to address and change. I will be on hand to assist as LJMU work to put into action the sentiments raised throughout the conference."