Blog: Our response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report on Racial Harassment in Higher Education

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a report of the findings of its inquiry into racial harassment at universities in October 2019. Here, Professor Fiona Beveridge, Executive Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Humanities and Social Sciences, discusses the progress of the University’s EHRC working group, set up to respond to the report. Fiona chaired the Task and Finish Group relating to the University’s Values and Ethics.

In my role as EPVC I am involved in many committees and internal working groups.  One group that I have recently been asked to chair is the internal Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC) working group.  The Senior Leadership Team set this up last year as part of the University’s response to the publication of the EHRC Report ‘Tackling Racial Harassment: Universities Challenged’ and its role is to co-ordinate and monitor progress in our efforts to address racial harassment.  At our first meeting it was heartening to hear the excellent work which is already being undertaken in a variety of areas; complacency across the HE sector was a key criticism of the report and I was encouraged that here at the University of Liverpool we are striving to do more to tackle this very real issue.

Data and findings

One way in which we are doing this is through our internal Inquiry which is being led by Carol Costello, Director of People and Services and Cilla Ankrah-Lucas, Council member.  The EHRC report contained some interesting data and findings from across the HE sector.  But data can have its limitations.  There is a famous quote that “You can’t understand someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.”  With this in mind, our Inquiry will hear from staff and students and focus on the ‘lived’ experiences of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff and students in order to develop an understanding of what ‘good’ looks like relating to:

  • Having effective policies and procedures in place for tackling harassment, including racial harassment, which staff and students have confidence in using
  • Enhancing a sense of belonging to the University and increasing our visibility with the local BAME community
  • Having a whole institution approach which focuses on prevention and demonstrates that racial harassment will not be tolerated.

Focus groups

In January we were fortunate enough to welcome David Isaac CBE, Chair of the EHRC to speak to the Leadership Forum.  David had some tough messages for the sector and one that resonated with me was that “leaders need to listen” as this is what our Inquiry has been created to do.  We want to hear from as many BAME staff and students as possible: from our BAME students – both undergraduate and postgraduate, both home students and international; from our BAME staff – both British born and international.  Over the next few months we will therefore be organising a series of focus groups to hear from you. Without hearing from you, we will fail to understand how it feels to be Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic at our University and without having that understanding of what ‘good’ looks like, we will inevitably fail to achieve it.

I’m looking forward to hearing about this work as it progresses and to seeing the difference that it makes to every member of the University, both students and staff.  The work we are embarking on depends on us working together in partnership.  We are engaging with the Guild, with our BAME Staff Network and we will shortly be asking for BAME volunteers to be trained as facilitators for the focus groups.

Get involved

If you would like to get involved, either as facilitators or participants in the focus groups, please contact and if you have any questions please contact either Mary Moran, Head of Organisational Development (staff-related queries) or Julia Purvis, Head of Student Services (student-related queries).