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About ECU’s Race Equality Charter

Find out about the principles of the charter and how it has developed.

ECU’s Race Equality Charter (REC) aims to improve the representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education.

ECU’s Race Equality Charter (REC) provides a framework through which institutions work to identify and self-reflect on institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of minority ethnic staff and students. Member institutions develop initiatives and solutions for action, and can apply for a Bronze or Silver REC award, depending on their level of progress.

REC is underpinned by five fundamental guiding principles:

  1. Racial inequalities are a significant issue within higher education. Racial inequalities are not necessarily overt, isolated incidents. Racism is an everyday facet of UK society and racial inequalities manifest themselves in everyday situations, processes and behaviours.
  2. UK higher education cannot reach its full potential unless it can benefit from the talents of the whole population and until individuals from all ethnic backgrounds can benefit equally from the opportunities it affords.
  3. In developing solutions to racial inequalities, it is important that they are aimed at achieving long-term institutional culture change, avoiding a deficit model where solutions are aimed at changing the individual.
  4. Minority ethnic staff and students are not a homogenous group. People from different ethnic backgrounds have different experiences of and outcomes from/within higher education, and that complexity needs to be considered in analysing data and developing actions.
  5. All individuals have multiple identities, and the intersection of those different identities should be considered wherever possible.

By becoming a member of ECU’s Race Equality Charter, institutions are committing to following these principles in how they approach race equality and address their institutional culture.

REC covers:

  • professional and support staff
  • academic staff
  • student progression and attainment
  • diversity of the curriculum

Developing the charter

In 2010 ECU began work evaluating initiatives which might lead to systemic change in race equality. There was a growing appetite for a race-specific charter within the sector and we identified that there was a pressing need to prioritise race equality, and for a vehicle to guide action across the sector. Many of ECU’s key stakeholders were actively supportive of the development.

Following supportive feedback from sector stakeholders, in 2012 we began developing a race equality charter.

Following consultation, we developed a framework for the charter, building on the experience and methodology of ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter. We held a second consultation in early 2014, and developed a revised framework taking account of the responses from the sector.

We then trialled the framework with volunteer institutions to help ensure the framework and approach are suitable for different institutions, whatever their size, specialism or local demographics. This resulted in 21 applications with eight institutions receiving a Bronze award. Further changes have been made following the trial and ECU’s Race Equality Charter was fully launched in January 2016.

As with Athena SWAN, REC is an evolving charter. Institutions are expected to start at Bronze level and progress to Silver. In the longer-term we also anticipate the charter criteria changing as the sector progresses and race equality is advanced.


ECU plans to undertake an evaluation of REC’s impact in 2020.