University of Galway launches Race Equality Framework and Action Plan

From left, Vusi Thabethe, undergraduate student; Aoife Cooke, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; Dr Helen Maher, Vice-President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; Owen Ward, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion programme manager for race equality; Vanessa Frimpong, University of Galway Students Union Ethnic Minorities Officer; President Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh; and Emer O'Neill RTÉ Presenter. Credit - Aengus McMahon
Nov 07 2023 Posted: 14:44 GMT

University of Galway has today launched its first Race Equality Framework and Action Plan, to guide a co-ordinated approach to improving equality, diversity and inclusion in the University.

The Action Plan contains 120 actions across five thematic areas, with emphasis placed on ensuring race equality is prioritised in all strategies and policies to ensure the University develops as a welcoming, inclusive environment where everyone has a sense of belonging.

The plan looks to modernise education; improve the university experience and opportunities for students from ethnic minorities; increase representation of people from ethnic minorities among staff; and develop research partnerships with the global south. 

President of University of Galway, Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “Our University has made significant progress in recent years around equality, diversity and inclusion and as a community we commend all of those who have contributed, and continue to contribute every day, on this journey. We are in a different place, and a better place, because of it. This work is expanding now, with a focus on race equality, and the action plan and framework are a striking symbol of how our values of respect and openness guide the development of University of Galway. I urge our university community to stand and to act against racism in all its guises and against the attitudes and inequalities that allow it to fester. The actions that we commit to now in this plan will ensure that we deepen our focus and commitment to that, and become one example of our work for public good.”

Dr Helen Maher, Vice-President for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, said: “The Race Equality Framework and Action Plan will guide us on our journey towards advancing race equality while cultivating a more equitable and inclusive university. In particular, it articulates our commitment and plans to enable an environment where different cultures, ethnicities and perspectives are visibly and openly valued. In doing so, it further acknowledges that race equality is central to the pursuit of respect, openness, sustainability, and excellence which are explicit values of our university. Guided by the Sustainable Development Goals and shaped by insights from our university community and external community partners, while building on the University Strategy 2020-2025 and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2020-2025, the Action Plan aims to embed race equality in all aspects of university life including in our teaching, research and engagement. This will provide a more welcoming inclusive environment where everyone has a sense of belonging and can thrive.”

The Higher Education Authority defines race equality as equal representation, equal experiences and equal outcomes of staff and students from minority ethnic groups, while race inequality is defined as unequal representation, unequal experiences and unequal outcomes of staff and students from minority ethnic groups.

Owen Ward, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion programme manager for race equality, said: “In recent decades University of Galway has been transformed, from a third level institution catering primarily for white Irish (non-Irish Traveller) school leavers, to actively widening the participation of students from underrepresented groups and striving to become a global institution with an increasingly diverse student and staff body. This transformation has become a key strength. 

“While the university has made major strides to embed equality, diversity and inclusion across the institution, it is widely acknowledged that it needs to sharpen its focus on race equality. Tangible, meaningful actions are now being established to advance race equality at the University.”

The Action Plan has five thematic areas - leadership, strategy, and policy; recruitment, progression and supports; data, monitoring and reporting; community, communications and culture; and scholarship and research. 

In total, there are 120 actions under these themes, including:

- A commitment of ensure that race equality is prioritised in all University strategies and policies.

- A target of 10% administrative and support staff from an Irish ethnic minority background by 2027.

- An increase in ethnic minority staff in managerial or leadership positions.

- Enhanced student supports to further support minority ethnic and international students.

- Collection and reporting of ethnicity data embedded across the University.

- Strengthen awareness and understanding of race equality, racism, anti-racism, unconscious bias, equality and human rights. 

- Decolonise the curriculum to ensure it is inclusive of perspectives from the Global South, nomadism, indigenous and Black Studies.

- Increased institutional partnerships and research collaborations with partners in the Global South.

The Race Equality Framework and Action Plan builds on actions outlined in the HEA Race Equality Implementation Plan 2022 -2024, Anti-Racism Principles for Irish Higher Education Institutions and National Action Plan Against Racism (2023) that are underpinned by the prohibition of racial discrimination and in accordance with statutory equality and human rights duties. It is strengthened by the Higher Education Authority Act 2022 and Public Sector Equality and Human Rights Duty which articulates University of Galway’s statutory responsibility to advance equality of opportunity and support diversity and inclusion, including race equality, in the University. 

The University commenced a multifaceted consultation process with staff and students and external partners, including local civil society organisations, in 2022/23. This offered a strong evidence base of the overall experiences of minority ethnic staff and students in the University and was used to inform the development of the Race Equality Framework and Action Plan. 


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