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What is 'Race' and 'Racism'? 

'Race' is a social construct implemented to categorize people in groups based on their genetic and biological differences.  

'Racism' describes prejudice of discriminatory behaviour and attitude towards an individual or a group of people due to their race. Racism can occur on an individual, cultural, and institutional level.  

'Institutional Racism' describes the ways, either covert or overt, in which institutions' policies, procedures, operations, and culture reinforce individual prejudices by way of the system itself – rather than by individuals.   

Gaps in achievement by ethnicity (as described above) is just one example of institutional racism. St Mary's is committed to understanding and dismantling institutional racism within the University- starting with participation in in initiatives like the Race Equality Charter.  

Race is a protected characteristic under the UK Government's Equality Act 2010.  

Discrimination of any kind based on race is prohibited under Equality Act 2010 and is not tolerated at St Mary's. St Mary's has zero tolerance for racism in our community. 

Any student or member of staff who has been affected by discrimination, bullying, harassment, violence, or hate crime is encouraged to visit our Report & Support pages for staff and for students for detailed information about their options.

The following resources have been curated in relation to Race - a protected characteristic under Equality Act 2010.

'BAME' is an acronym for 'Black, Asian and Minority ethnic'. This term is inclusive of minority ethnicities and is used in the UK. Learn more about the definition of BAME and why these terms matter.  

'POC' is an acronym for 'People (or a Person) of Colour'.   

'BIPOC' is an acronym for 'Black and Indigenous People of Colour'. Learn more about the definitions of POC, BIPOC, and why these terms matter.  

Whilst these acronyms were coined by minority groups to demonstrate their united front against discrimination, these terms are now under scrutiny due to their impetuous use which dangerously bunches all non-white people together. Whilst at St Mary's we acknowledge that the use of BAME is contentious, this is the term most widely used in universities in the UK and one we are required to use in our reporting to the Office for Students (our regulator) and the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA). As the world-renowned historian, David Olusoga notes, although the term is limited, it can continue to serve as a useful umbrella under which communities with what he calls a "shared colonial experience" can work together to create a path forward. 

The 'BAME student experience' is currently a focus of all universities across the UK due to an identified degree 'attainment gap'. The term 'attainment gap' refers to the difference in ‘top degrees’ – a First or 2:1 classification – awarded to different groups of students – namely students from different ethnic backgrounds. Although 'attainment gap' is the terminology often used, it should be more accurately called an 'awarding gap' to acknowledge that the responsibility for this phenomenon lies with universities and with societal, structural, and historical inequalities, rather than with the students themselves.  

  • In 2015/16, the degree attainment gap in England – with 78.8% of White students receiving a first/2:1 compared with 63.2% of BAME students – a 15.6% gap.  

  • In the 2017/18 academic year at St Mary's there was an 17% gap between Black and White students and an 11% gap between Asian and White students. This has since reduced slightly, but still must be tackled.  

  • All universities across the UK (including St Mary's) have pledged to eliminate this gap by 2025  

There is also a 'continuation gap' which means that BAME students are less likely to complete the whole of their degree programmes and graduate.  

  • In the most recent figures for St Mary's, 90% of White students completed their degrees, compared to 83% for other ethnicities  

These gaps must be addressed and tackled by universities (including St Mary's) to ensure every student has equal opportunities to work to and achieve at the best of their ability, ensuring their graduate life chances are the best they can be. The gaps occur for a range of reasons, including systemic issues both at and before university such as a lack of representation in curricula and staff.  

As for BAME staff working in universities, there are significant barriers to representation and progression across the sector. Research by Advance HE has found that UK university staff from minority ethnic backgrounds:  

  • Can feel that their leadership ability is questioned  

  • Assumptions are often made that they are in junior positions even when they occupy senior (eg professorial) roles  

  • Have reported negative assumptions being made about their abilities  

  •  Report experiences of invisibility, isolation, marginalisation and racial discrimination in HE  

  • Report experiencing heavy workloads, disproportionate levels of scrutiny compared with their white counterparts  

  • A lack of mentoring and support for career development, and difficulties in gaining promotion  

  • Lecturers teaching in the areas of ‘race’, equality and multiculturalism report that these subjects are often designated as low status when performed by BME staff, yet they appear to acquire higher status when performed by white staff  

  • Report having fewer opportunities to develop research capacity and enhance their promotion prospects  

Key initiatives at St Mary's like the Race Equality Charter and work by our Widening Participation Team (in line with our Access and Participation Plan) seek to address and remove these barriers to equality for our BAME students and staff. For more information on these programmes, please visit our Further Information and Guidance page linked below. 


The Race Equality Charter 

To help drive forward our efforts to improve racial equality at St Mary’s, we are a proud member of Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter. The charter serves as a helpful framework as we seek to interrogate and improve existing structures, policies, and practices that may prohibit St Mary’s from achieving racial equality for our staff and students. As part of joining the Charter, the Vice-Chancellor has released a letter in which he has committed to five guiding principles which will underpin our efforts to improve our policies, practices, and culture through structured action planning. The university has assembled a self-assessment team (SAT) who will lead our efforts to address racial inequality at St Mary’s. The SAT formation process was informed and supported by our BAME & Allies Staff Network and BAME Student Network, who have been key collaborators in our REC process. 

Learn more about our work with the Race Equality Charter

To join our Race Equality Charter Self-Assessment Team (SAT) or find out about more ways to get involved, please email  

BAME Staff and Student Networks 

Our BAME Staff and Student Networks are dedicated to addressing students' and staffs' racial issues and enhancing the experience of BAME community members at St Mary's. For more information or ways to get involved, visit our BAME & Allies Staff Network page or reach out to our BAME & Allies Staff Network chair Oby Oputa or BAME Student Network chair Melina Healy

Be SMART Programme 

Run by the Employability Service and Widening Participation department, Be SMART offers mentoring, leadership and paid micro-internship opportunities to BAME Students. The programme empowers students from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds to recognise and promote the value in their difference and the unique strengths and perspectives bring to the workplace, enhances their employability, and supports them to achieve their future career goals through building the graduate career capital essential to successful career development. More information about Be SMART and how to get involved can be found on the Careers and Employability Moodle page

Access and Participation Plan 

St Mary's Access and Participation Plan (which is our formal agreement with our regulator, the Office for Students) has a number of specific targets about improving inequalities where they have been identified. Learn more about our Access and Participation Plan and the work of our Widening Participation and Outreach team here.  

Anonymous Reporting 

St Mary's has recently launched an anonymous reporting form to better understand and address issues of discrimination and racism in our community. 

It is essential that everyone, especially students and staff who are White, join our efforts to tackle racism and discrimination. This is known as becoming an ally. There are a number of really important things that we can all do to become allies, to eliminate inequalities or discrimination wherever they occur: 

  1. Educate yourself on Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic history and racism. Check out the following websites as a starting point: 
  2. Listen to podcasts. Try these: 
  3. Learn about and support petitions from:  
  1. Talk to those around you and call out racism when you see or hear it. Amnesty's resource on "How to tell someone you love they're being racist" may be useful if you're looking for guidance on how to call out racist behaviour in loved ones 
  1. While talking to Black people about their experiences of racism can seem like a good idea, it can be quite triggering. Check up on your Black friends, but do the research into race and racism yourself. You can do this by: 
    • Watching documentaries and tv programs. Try "13th", which discusses slavery, Jim Crow Laws, and criminalization and how they are linked with current racial inequality.  
    • Another good resource is "Black and British: A Forgotten History" by David Olusoga on BBC iplayer
    • Watch the award winning short film Re:Tension, it addresses institutional racism and the gap in student retention amongst BAME (Black, Asian and Minority, Ethnic) students within British universities. 
  2. Read books about racism and oppression. Try these: 
  • SMSU Afro-Caribbean Society (ACS) - The ACS meets on regular Fridays and can be found on Instagram: @stmarysacs or on the SMSU website 
  • SMSU International Society - for anyone who wants to meet people from all around the world  
  • BAME Student Network - This comprises both staff and students who are interested in improving the experiences of students from all minority ethnic groups at St Mary's. To find out more, contact 
  • St Mary's BAME Staff and Student networks offer support and mentoring from staff members.   
  • Seek support from a trained counsellor in our Student Wellbeing Service. 
  • Seek support from a member of our St Mary's Student Union student officer team. 


  • Citizens Advice – Race discrimination 
    Citizens Advice is a national charity which offers support and advice to individuals concern regarding: discrimination, employment, debt and money, housing, immigration and other legal matters.  
  • UKCISA- UK Council for International Student Affairs  is a charity and UK’s national advisory body dedicated to providing support for International students. They can provide guidance for immigration, fees, mental health and adjustment. 
  • BlackMindsMatter  is a UK based professional mental health service for BAME individuals and families.  
  • Stop Hate UK is an organisation which seeks to challenge Hate Crime and discrimination based on a persons protected characteristic. Stop Hate can provide support and guidance for individuals who wish to report hate crime or are seeking information on how to best support victims of discrimination. 
  • NUS Black Student Network is an NUS division which facilitates conversations regarding issues faced by Black students and offers supports their support to help individuals resolve any concerns they may have.  
  • Chinese National Healthy Living Centre is an establishment dedicated to Chinese community to help individuals who face barriers, access health and social services. 
  • Nafsiyat is an intercultural therapy centre that offers intercultural counselling and psychotherapy to individuals from diverse ethnic and cultural heritage. 
  • Great British Mag is a digital magazine which produces content for International students. It is full of materials regarding student life in the UK and useful insights for international students