Middlesex University is today announcing a series of positive steps to address diversity as the world celebrates Black History Month.
The planned changes over the next year will include implementing a Race Equality Charter, installing Diversity Champions, staging reverse mentoring events and decolonising the curriculum.
MDX is proud to be one of the most diverse universities in the UK with four times the average number of Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students - 37% Asian (compared to 8% national average); 20% Black (compared to 4% nationally).
But following the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests around the globe, the university understands these issues are of “critical importance” to its student population.
“Black History Month, when it started in the US, was focused on writing black lives back into history when they had been written out and that’s a really important lesson,” Professor Nic Beech, Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University.
Senior staff at MDX believe this is an opportunity to recognise the positive work that has already taken place with regards to race and equality and to look at how we can take make further lasting improvements.
As a start will be working hard to achieve the standards and award of the Race Equality Charter Mark, awarded by Advance HE, before summer next year.
In working towards the award MDX will undertake a comprehensive self-assessment of race equality across the institution and develop solutions to the issues with the creation of an action plan.
Dr Doirean Wilson, (pictured above) is a multiple award-winning diversity expert, who until recently was the Diversity Lead at MDX, and is one of the newly appointed Chairs of the University's Anti-Racism Network.
Doirean, who is also a Senior Lecturer (Practice) specialising in Human Resource Management, said: “In essence, Middlesex has recognised there is work to be done around the area of race and inclusion and should be commended for taking the necessary steps to promote greater awareness and understanding, as a means for addressing the issue of race, particularly in light of the `Black Lives Matter` world protests.
“Part of this process is to provide a platform of safety and trust for dialogue.
“MDX is taking note of its student demographics and responding to the needs of students and staff from their diverse cultural perspectives.”
Currently Doirean is creating a diversity tool kit manual and videos for the Met Police to educate officers about the many different cultures in London.
Professor Nic Beech, the Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University, said: “From a management point of view, it’s the start of the journey not the finish.
“The proportion of student, staff and alumni groups at Middlesex gives us a real opportunity to develop but we have to work hard to make the most of this opportunity.
“For me it’s about culture change, we are not interested in superficial changes but in addressing the underlying factors in the system.
“Clearly we need to fight against racism, but we also need to work on cultural attitudes and behaviours which can inadvertently lead to prejudice.
“We must look at how easy is it for people to raise questions, and raise issues with experiences including racism, bullying and exclusion, along with micro and everyday experiences.
“There’s still work to be done so people feel they can be genuinely open with us so we can learn and change.”
Another action to address diversity will be focused on rolling out the inclusive curriculum framework and decolonisation of the curriculum through culture change – looking at what and how subjects are taught.
Professor Beech explained that decolonising and making the curriculum more inclusive will take place across every department of the university and look at the range of teaching activities from case studies to reading lists and examples of research.
“Black History Month, when it started in the US, was focused on writing black lives back into history when they had been written out and that’s a really important lesson,” added Prof Beech.
“The real question with making the curriculum more inclusive and decolonising is how questions of race, ethnicity, inclusion and exclusion become part of what we naturally study from science, tech, creativity, health, law and businesses.”
MDX has already begun a programme of “Listening to Understand” which includes both staff and student communication events.
In a recent article for the Chartered Managers Institute (CMI) Professor Beech said: “We need to listen and act.
“That means staying with dialogue that is uncomfortable, persistent listening and not going into a dialogue with the intention of getting your point across – go into it in order to be challenged and changed.
“Reverse mentoring is one great way of doing this.”
In total, 28.7% of staff at MDX at our main campus in Hendon, north London, are from a BAME background compared to 9% on average
The university is determined to ensure BAME staff are represented in senior positions across our various departments.
MDX alumnus Lord Simon Woolley, a political and equalities campaigner who founded Operation Black Vote, has praised the planned changes proposed by Middlesex University.
“This strategy is a statement of the University’s intent and they should be applauded and encouraged,” said Lord Woolley.
“The BLM movement has given us all an opportunity to redouble efforts and make some real inroads into closing diversity gaps.
“I would like to see the university seek to become a world leader on the issue of diversity, particularly race equality and empower students on this journey.
“A key objective for the University must be to become a beacon to attract the most dynamic students not just locally but from the UK and abroad.
“We’ll become more attractive to this target group if we can proudly show greater diversity in all areas, at all levels of the university.
“Starting at Middlesex I believe if we can put in place these improvements they will help our students become personally and academic brilliantly and leaders in their chosen field.
“When these students leave Middlesex they will have gained a sense of leadership and believe they can change our world.”
Some wise words from @MiddlesexUni Vice-Chancellor, @NicBeech1, on #BlackHistoryMonth.— MDXSU (@MiddlesexSU) October 6, 2020
Learn more about what @MiddlesexSU are doing to change societal narratives for our Black students at #MDX
Get involved in our #BHM events at https://t.co/sJ0ke7rCKL pic.twitter.com/LDrQOCgzJ4