Advance HE Chief Executive, Alison Johns, said, “A number of claims have recently been levelled at the Race Equality Charter. Many aspects that have been reported are misleading or mistaken and it’s important we clarify these.
“The Charter is not a campaign or a policy tool, neither is Advance HE a campaigning organisation, we are an educational charity. The Charter is a sector-created, evidenced-based framework to support staff in participating institutions to develop their own plans to create inclusive teaching and research environments and tackle racism. It is in no way prescriptive, claims that to participate in the Charter universities must decolonise the curriculum or crack down on micro-aggressions are simply untrue. Critical race theory is not prescribed or mentioned in any of the Charter guidance. Critical race theory does not form part of the criteria for conferring an award. Applications are assessed through peer review, not by Advance HE.
“We know there is evidence in the sector that shows there is much work to be done to improve inclusivity in this area. In 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission uncovered ‘widespread evidence’ of racial harassment on university campuses and UUK has since issued guidance on tackling racial harassment in higher education. Advance HE also provides information on contemporary approaches and thinking in relation to tackling racism on campus. Institutions are autonomous and it is for them to decide how they wish to address issues.
“Freedom of speech and academic freedom are critical to the higher education sector. The ethos of the Charter is to create a more inclusive environment where all voices can be heard and where everyone can thrive. There is a risk that some of these claims are counter-productive to the aspects of freedom of speech people are trying to defend.
“Advance HE is a member-led, sector-owned educational charity that works with institutions to improve higher education for staff, students and society. Working primarily to work with the sector to improve teaching and learning, leadership and governance and equality, diversity, and inclusion, our scope is much broader than just the race equality work centred on in recent articles.
“With regards to funding, we are funded through voluntary subscriptions, engagement from our member base or commissioned work. Any surplus we reinvest to benefit the sector. Advance HE is not and never has been directly funded by UK government. Advance HE legacy agencies prior to merger were once to varying degrees in receipt of funds from funding councils in the nations, but this largely ended before Advance HE was formed in March 2018. Since then we have been commissioned to undertake specific work for the Scottish Funding Council around equality, diversity and inclusion, but this ends on 31 July 2021.
“We support and commend the work of our members and the sector in seeking to improve the experience of staff and students through the values of dignity, respect and inclusion through all of our work. This is a highly complex and sensitive area and that is why it is important to us that we do this work through a balanced and measured approach, that seeks to draw on differing perspectives and narratives.”