Press Release

University apology to victims of racism

Published on 7 June 2021

The Principal of the University of Dundee has issued an apology to all in the University community who may have been a victim of racism while living, working or studying in Dundee.

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It comes after a survey of staff and students showed striking differences in attitudes and experiences regarding race and ethnicity issues.

Professor Iain Gillespie, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, said, “I apologise on behalf of the University 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.

“The results of this survey show that problems that exist across much of our society are also problems within our University community, the city and the surrounding area. There is much in the report that makes for disturbing, shocking, and uncomfortable reading.

“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 the University, the city and Scotland a truly fair and equitable place for all, regardless of race.

“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.”

The University surveyed staff and students between 24 November and 11 December 2020, as part of the process of applying to Advance HE for the Race Equality Charter. A total of 876 staff and 506 students participated in the REC surveys, with 17% of staff and 33% of student respondents identifying as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) in the two surveys.

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 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.

    • The REC 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.

`I have witnessed or been the victim of racism on campus’:

24% BAME staff/7% White staff & 24% BAME students/ 10% White students

I have witnessed or been the victim of racism off campus:

34% BAME staff/8% White staff & 40% BAME students/11% White students

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.

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

“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.”

Scott Quinn, President of Dundee University Students’ Association, said, “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.”

Dundee City Council leader Councillor John Alexander said, “Our city is a richer place for its citizens’ diversity of ethnicities, cultures and backgrounds, including the thousands of students who come to Dundee every year and make such a tremendous and positive contribution.

“Every instance where students have been the victims of racism in the local community is one too many and it is equally depressing and angering that this happens in 21st century Dundee.

“I’m certain that the vast majority of people in Dundee will join me in condemning these abhorrent acts and expressing our solidarity with those who have been targeted.

“There is no room for racism in Dundee, and we must collectively do more to support victims, tackle offending behaviour and promote a culture of tolerance and inclusivity. We cannot and do not pretend that there is not a problem here.

“The findings of this research again remind us all that there is much more to do if we are to create a city where everyone feels safe, welcome and can flourish regardless of their race or ethnicity.”

Notes to editors

A copy of the full report is available on request or via the link here.

A Note on Ethnic Terminology

Within the report we have used the widely recognised term Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME). We acknowledge that whilst this acronym has long been used to identify minoritised non-white ethnicities in the UK, use of the term is contentious, reductive and one that does not take account of the different ethnic, religious, cultural, and societal experiences of those grouped together under this umbrella designation. Consequently, while it may be convenient for reporting purposes, the failure to recognise the inherent heterogeneity of those identified as BAME can inadvertently mask the true extent of inequalities faced by some ethnic groups when reported as part of a BAME collective.

The complexity associated with this heterogeneity therefore needs to be fully considered when reflecting on some of the findings presented within this report.

From the perspective of identifying prominent race-related issues that impact our University staff and student communities, the responses and views of individuals were classified based on the following groupings:

    • Black (African and Caribbean), Asian (Indian, Pakistani, or Bangladeshi), Chinese, Dual/Mixed heritage or Other “non-white” were consolidated as “BAME” and disaggregated where considered appropriate.
    • White British, White Scottish, White English, White Welsh, White Northern Irish, White Irish, White Gypsy or Traveller or any other White background (American, Australian, European) were consolidated as “White”.
    • Those who chose not to declare their ethnicity were consolidated as the “Undisclosed” group.

The Race Equality Charter

The University is in the process of submitting 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.


Roddy Isles

Head of Corporate Communication

+44 (0)1382 384910