Scotland’s top university, St Andrews, established in 1413, has formally apologised to the BAME community in the wake of worldwide protests lead by the Black Lives Matter movement. The protests began as an outright condemnation of the murder of Black man George Floyd in Minneapolis last month and has since seen a tidal wave of largely peaceful marches and demonstrations calling for change in discriminatory policies upheld by governments and institutions.
As the demonstrations and marches continue, a host of ingrained prejudices have been unearthed with many examining the history and legacy of some of our most famous landmarks and statues. Organisations from many leading sectors are now pledging affirmative action in order to stamp out the subconscious bias that has existed for centuries.
St Andrews University has long been a bastion of exclusivity and privilege attended by Royals and the children of industry captains.
Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, Professor Sally Mapstone, apologising on behalf of Scotland’s first University for past failures to value and elevate Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students and scholars said:
“We know that for decades, St Andrews hasn’t got this right, that we’ve let down our BAME students and staff, and that our university has been, and continues to be, so much the poorer for it. On behalf of this institution, I apologise for that.
“Acknowledging that injustice, understanding what we are and have been doing to right it, and where we must all play a part in enabling structural change, is an absolutely fundamental step in our reform.”
In a message to staff and students, Professor Mapstone set out a comprehensive list of the actions St Andrews is taking to improve BAME representation, and called on all staff and students to be active participants in driving change.
To support change, the University of St Andrews has also published, for the first time, comprehensive Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Progress Reports. These represent the culmination of a year-long project to generate extensive and reliable evidence against which progress can be measured.
Key findings include:
Just over 20% of St Andrews’ student population identifies as BAME.
In Scottish universities, the proportion of the student population which identifies as BAME is 8.8%.
Amongst St Andrews staff, 6.6% identify as BAME.
Amongst taught postgraduates the figure is 35.4%.
Amongst our research postgraduates it is 24.6% and amongst our undergraduates 17.9%.
In Scotland, 4% of our population identifies as BAME, and in Fife that figure is 2.4%.
The reports also include detailed information on attainment and retention, and provide important context for the actions the University is taking to improve BAME representation.
The University’s Race, Ethnicity, Religion and Belief Equality Group is working to identify and address issues which disadvantage BAME people at the University.
A Name Blind Working Group is examining all evidence on the advantages and disadvantages of name-blind applications.
BAME students from St Andrews give recruitment presentations at secondary schools and review all our marketing material.
An audit of inclusive curriculum initiatives currently active across the University, with a focus on race and ethnicity.
St Andrews was the only Scottish university to have advertised vacancies in publications including the Windrush Magazine, the Black History Month Magazine and website, and the BAME Education and Careers Guide magazine.
Since 2016, the University has supported staff to take part in the Advance HE Diversifying Leadership (BAME) programme.
Launch of St Andrews’ Staff BAME Network (2018).
Principal Mapstone continued:
“Every one of the initiatives underway at St Andrews exists because we want to make a real difference to people’s lives.
“These actions are only a start, but I hope they provide a sense of depth and momentum, and the centrality of diversity to what St Andrews, under my leadership, aspires to be.”
Student President Jamie Rodney added:
“I echo the Principal’s apology – the Students’ Association, just like the University, has fallen short of doing everything it could do for BAME, and particularly Black students. We’ll be doing everything we can to support the University’s actions, and uplift the voices of our Black students.”
MP for North East Fife, Wendy Chamberlain, commented: “I’m pleased to see this positive step from Sally Mapstone. While many are reflecting on our roles and actions in society and we re-examine historic injustices, it’s important to acknowledge the wrongs of the past to inform what we can do better in the future. I’m grateful that Sally Mapstone has outlined both on behalf of the University of St Andrews today.”