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UCU responds to Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report

31 March 2021 | last updated: 1 April 2021

The University and College Union (UCU) has today (Wednesday) condemned the findings of Tony Sewell's Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities as an 'insult' to people in Britain experiencing racism on a daily basis.

The union said it was especially galling for the report to downplay the impact of systemic racism in the midst of at a pandemic where black and other ethnic minority communities have borne a hugely disproportionate cost and impact. UCU said that by attacking the well-evidenced existence of institutional racism, the report was letting the government off the hook when it comes to tackling racism. 

UCU said that while the commission recognised the importance of careers advice for Black students, pushing the responsibility for this onto universities was unhelpful. The union said that greater investment in independent careers advice and guidance, alongside reform of university admissions, would go farther in ensuring all students were empowered to make the best decisions about their education. 

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: "This report is an insult to the thousands of people in our communities that face and battle racism on a daily basis. It is especially galling when one considers the hugely disproportionate impact of the pandemic and the pay gaps, educational inequalities and social issues faced by so many people in our country. 

"By downplaying the well-evidenced existence of structural and institutional racism, the report is letting the government off the hook when it comes to action to tackle racism. Instead of offering practical solutions, this report seeks to shift the blame for inequality onto ethnic minority communities themselves. 

"The report talks about the importance of careers advice but seeks to lay all the responsibility for this at the door of universities. This ignores the fact that careers advice has been hugely underfunded in recent years. We need to see much greater investment in advice and guidance, alongside reform of university admissions, if we are to ensure that all young people are properly empowered to choose the best education for them." 

UCU, alongside EIS, GMB, NEU, NAHT, NASUWT, NUS and UNISON, has produced a joint statement in response to the report.