Equality, diversity and inclusion at SOAS
The recent history of work on race at SOAS has included a number of initiatives aimed at responding to concerns by Black staff and students in relation to the curriculum and pedagogy, promotion and reward, mentoring, recognition and representation.
SOAS students have played an important role in articulating concerns that have led to the establishment of the Decolonising Working Group, and a Black Student Support Coordinator role by the student’s union. A number of positive initiatives led by staff and students SOAS have focused on reducing racialised bias and institutional racism and include:
- Breaking Barriers
- Bridging the Gap
- Ebony Initiative
- Black Staff and Student Forum
- Decolonising Working Group
As part of a formal institutional commitment to advance this work anchored in the strategic Plan’s pillar four focussed on Building a Socially Just Community we will work towards the following priorities.
Take action on racial justice
- Implement targets for recruitment, retention, progression and representation of Black staff and students.
- Identify and address structural barriers to degree outcome, research grant and career progression for Black staff and students including through grants and scholarships.
- Launch the Director's leadership programme for all staff.
- Integrate and deliver an integrated EDI Strategic Plan
Foster an enabling environment
- Embed the SOAS Charter Against Discrimination
- Ensure effective implementation of the SOAS Dignity and Respect policy, and rapid, fair and effective resolution of disputes and complaints.
Black Student and Staff Forum
The Black Staff and Student Forum (BSSF) was established in 2016 to bring together staff and ungraduate and postgraduate students.
The BSSF provides a vital space to acknowledge and draw on the collective experience of working and studying at SOAS. It is an important sounding board for the institution by centring the experiences of Black staff and students.
The BSSF flagship initiative is the Breaking Barriers Mentoring Programme which matches staff and students. The Forum meets regularly throughout the academic year and feeds directly into the focus on building institutional community, which is one of the core pillars in the new Strategic Plan 2021 – 2026.
SOAS is committed to diversity and inclusivity and have a continuous commitment to widening access and participation across the student lifecycle.
Our Access and Participation Plan 2020-25 has diversity at its core and highlights areas of success particularly in access.
SOAS has an integrated approach to planning and implementation, and the APP is embedded in all institution-wide strategies focused, for example diversifying assessment and feedback, improving academic support and decolonising the curriculum.
In addition, we have implemented a new way of working with academic departments and professional services to deliver a transformative experience for all students.
Report and support
SOAS is committed to maintaining a professional working, and learning environment that is free from any form of bullying and harassment. Such behaviours are never acceptable whether carried out by students, staff or visitors to the premises.
At SOAS we are a compassionate community who look out for each other and our collective wellbeing, being actively inclusive and embracing individual differences.
As part of this commitment towards tackling discrimination, harassment and victimisation, our Report and Support tool provides options for accessing support, making an anonymous report, and seeking formal action to take place.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee
The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee is a sub-committee of Academic Board. It is required to report to Academic Board on a termly basis and to Board of Trustees on a regular basis. It also has a responsibility to liaise with other committees and to keep them informed as necessary. The committee will report quarterly to the Executive Board and has the authority to escalate issues to it for further action or consideration. Members of the committee are functional representatives and are expected to communicate key issues and updates acting as a key link between the SOAS community and governance structures.
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Network
The EDI Network is a space in which our community can come together to discuss and develop actions that can make SOAS a more inclusive, equitable place to work, study and be. It is open to both students and staff, and aims to:
- Actively promote equality and diversity across the University.
- Engage with current EDI issues facing staff and students and support campaigns.
- Make appropriate recommendations to the EDI Committee and ensure accountability through scrutiny and feedback.
- Provide EDI training to members to empower them in their role as allies and facilitate the dissemination of information and good practice to the wider community.
- Act as a resource hub through which members of the University community can access information and help others.
- Ensure intersectional needs are heard through diverse representation and collaboration with all staff and student communities.
Trans Dignity at SOAS aims to create a safe and welcoming environment for trans and non-binary students at the School. In the group’s words,
“Trans* people do not need to be included or simply allowed to study here. We need to be centred, respected, protected and cared for… to ensure that trans and non-binary people don’t have additional anxious, depressive or suicidal thoughts as a result of coming this University on top of that we experience already in a hostile world, and to maintain a basic level of respect and support to help us get through them while studying”.
Thanks to the efforts of the Trans Dignity student campaign, at SOAS we are kicking off a year-long consultancy with Gendered Intelligence (GI) with the aim of making SOAS more trans inclusive.
- GI will help us to create a trans, non-binary, and intersex inclusion policy for all staff and students. This will replace our current trans equality policy, which is nearly ten years old and primarily concerned with legal liability from the then-new Equalities Act.
Aurora is a national leadership development initiative for women in higher education. It is for all individuals that identify as a woman up to senior lecturer level or professional services equivalent (SOAS Grades 2 - 9), ambitious for a career in the sector and interested in exploring leadership and management as one option for progression.
It it is specifically designed to help early career women think about their future careers and to consider leadership and management as routes to progression. Find out more at on the AdvanceHE Aurora pages.
Aurora as a whole is particularly aimed at:
women who have yet to take on substantive leadership or management roles or those who may be disinclined to take on visible influential tasks (such as project management or committee representation).
women who may have had little interest in management and leadership development previously
SOAS strongly encourages applications from Black women and women of colour as these groups are underrepresented in leadership roles.
50% of UK domiciled students are from an ethnic minority background (more than double the sector average)
- 68% of overall students at SOAS are female; and within the undergraduate female cohort, 62% are from ethnic minorities.
- 14% of students are disabled - for students that have disclosed their disability, 44% relate to mental health conditions.
- There is a greater representation of students at SOAS from deprived neighbourhoods (within Indices of Multiple Deprivation quintiles 1 + 2) compared with students from the least deprived neighbourhoods in the UK.
- 40% of academic staff, and 43% of non-academic staff at SOAS are from Black, Asian or other ethnic minority groups (compared with the sector average of 15%, and 12% respectively)
- Female academics account for 29% of all staff at the institution, which is higher than both the national sector average (23%) and London institution average (26%).
- Female academics from ethnic minority backgrounds represent 13% of total staff at SOAS, which is over 4 times the sector average (3%).
- 5.9% of staff identify as Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual compared with the sector average of 2.6%.