Race Equality Charter survey - results

Published on 7 June 2021

The University surveyed staff and student attitudes and experiences towards race and ethnicity issues between November 24 and December 11, 2020.

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The University of Dundee is committed to addressing racial inequalities and creating an inclusive culture and environment where individuals can thrive, irrespective of their race or ethnicity.

In December 2018, the University submitted its application to Advance HE for membership of the Race Equality Charter (REC).

The Charter provides a framework through which universities can work to self-reflect on institutional and cultural barriers that impact adversely on their minority ethnic staff and student community. This self-reflection process is coordinated and driven by a Self-Assessment Team (SAT) whose gender and ethnic composition is diverse and representative of staff and students across the University.

A key role of the SAT is to evaluate racial inequalities and barriers affecting progression, development, and success of its BAME staff and students. A mandatory aspect of the self- reflection process involves conducting race surveys and focus group discussions to understand how race and ethnicity affect the day-to-day lives of our staff and students, and what can be done to improve their lived experience.

The University surveyed staff and student attitudes and experiences towards race and ethnicity issues between November 24 and December 11, 2020. A total of 876 staff and 506 students participated in the REC surveys, with 17% of staff and 33% of student respondents identifying as BAME in the two surveys.

It is noteworthy that the BAME staff who took part in the survey account for 49% of the University’s BAME staff headcount and consequently the views and responses of this cohort are likely to be representative of the our BAME staff community. The survey and focus group discussions identified several wider staff and student issues that the University now needs to consider for action.

This report summarises issues that have emerged and highlights areas for further reflection, discussion, and change. Some of the prominent concerns being exposed have been outlined below and you can download the full report at the bottom of this page.

The surveys revealed how important the ethnic/racial diversity of the University and local community is to our BAME staff and students, but also highlighted a striking difference in perception of our White community of the existence of racism within the University and of racial tensions off-campus compared to the lived experience of our BAME staff and students.

Many White respondents displayed a lack of awareness of race and cultural issues that impact their BAME colleagues, with a small minority expressing prejudicial and intolerant views of those whose heritage was non-white.

A common theme to emerge from the staff and student surveys was that compared to White individuals, those of BAME backgrounds experienced a much greater incidence of racial victimisation/harassment both on and off the University Campus. Allied to this finding, BAME individuals were far less confident that reporting incidents of racial bullying/discrimination to their School/Service or to the University would be taken seriously or result in appropriate action.

Staff and students expressed a strong desire for the University to promote a culture of zero tolerance against racial harassment, racial abuse, hate speech, including that on social media platforms that results in real justice for victims.

Initial responses

"On behalf of the University I apologise to every member of our community who has been a victim of racism while living and studying here. It is unacceptable in our society that people should experience this, and we must show zero tolerance of such attitudes and behaviour.

In successfully tackling any problem we first need to try to understand both the nature and extent of it. That is the spirit in which our race equality survey was carried out.

The survey shows that problems that exist across much of our society are also problems within our University community. As a University, a place of learning, education, fairness and equal opportunity, we should not simply reflect society, we should be helping lead it. We should not wait for others to solve issues for us, we must find the answers ourselves.

The University has many policies in place regarding racial equality, diversity and inclusion. We have taken positive steps over many years to ensure fairness and a welcoming environment for all. The results of this survey show that it has not been enough. We must do more.

My absolute commitment is that this survey must be the start of a process of acceptance of the issues which are laid out in these results, and lead to greater actions to make this University a truly fair and equitable place for all, regardless of race."

Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal & Vice-Chancellor

"As lead for the University’s Race Equality Charter (REC) submission, I wish to express my sincere gratitude to all staff and students who completed the race surveys and to those who shared their lived experiences within the focus group sessions. Conversations about race can be both difficult and uncomfortable, including for those of White ethnicity who may not fully understand their privilege or appreciate the corrosive impact that racism and discrimination can have on their Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) colleagues.

The survey report highlights a number of concerns and, although it makes for difficult reading, it offers a valuable opportunity to inform our REC application and, critically, develop an action plan that will align with many of the summary recommendations presented in the survey report.  The action plan will aim to not only promote a shift in University culture that is built on a zero-tolerance approach to racism but address any racial inequalities within our structural practices that inadvertently impact on the progression and development of our BAME staff and students.  

There is a clear need for transformation, and it is imperative that responsibility for driving this change falls on all of us and not solely on the shoulders of those of BAME ethnicity. The successful implementation of actions that will be detailed in our REC submission will not be achieved unless it is driven by strong leadership from the highest University level, including School Deans, Directors and other senior managers leading by example and taking responsibility for change.

I am confident that we can come together as a community to help bring transformation that reflects on the views, ideas, and the demand for change from the current status quo."

Professor Hari Hundal, University of Dundee Race Equality Charter Lead.

"It is incredibly important to see the realities of our students and staff and the horrendous challenges faced on a daily basis. We as in institution set out to champion diversity and the inclusivity of our community.

DUSA is an organisation that exists to represent and support students, and there is a clear need for us to do better. Thousands of students are recruited each year on the basis of a great student experience, and we need to do more to make sure that that is the case for everyone.

To the students who spoke up via the survey, we hear you. To those that didn’t and to those we have failed, we will change. The findings identified show the clear need to review DUSA’s culture and the support we offer, and in collaboration with the Senior Management Team, this is something we are taking forward."

Scott Quinn, President, Dundee University Students’ Association

Current action plan summary

The findings from the surveys and focus groups will inform the development of actions that promote positive and sustainable change in the University’s internal structures, practices, and cultural ethos.

We are already working on a number of projects which have been in development in some cases since before the launch of the survey.

These included (but are not limited to):

  • Reviewing complaints procedures to ensure action can be taken which supports individual facing racial abuse
  • More unconscious bias training for all students and staff
  • More courses and training to be placed on MyDundee to increase education on racism and privilege
  • A curriculum review will review diversity of academic reading lists and issues around decolonising our programmes
  • Research commissioned into any historic links between the University and slavery and other issues of racism and inequality

We will continue to update students and staff on the progress we make on these and further actions.

Content - advisory note for all readers

Please note before you download the report that you may find some of the content disturbing, shocking, and uncomfortable to read. The analysis and free text comments in particular cover themes of racism and racial harassment, and in some cases extreme views are included as an example of responses from within our community.

These issues are complex and if they are to be tackled, require honest, open, non-judgemental dialogue by the entire University community.

Although a challenging read for all, this report may be a particularly difficult for those who have experienced racism or harassment.

If you are a student and need support relating to any of the themes of the report, you can contact our Student Support Team by emailing or get in touch with the Counselling Service by emailing

If you are a member of staff and need support relating to any of the themes of the report, you can contact the Counselling Service by emailing or alternatively consult our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team, your People team officer, your union representative or your line manager.


Press Office, University of Dundee
Announcement Category Race equality, University statement