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Interview with Professor Mike Shipman

We spoke to Professor Mike Shipman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International), Executive Sponsor for race equality, and Chaired the University's Race Equality Charter Self-Assessment Team, about work to tackle racial inequalities at Warwick.

Click for an update on our Race Equality Charter application

 

We’re proud to have been awarded the Race Equality Charter Bronze award, independent recognition of our commitment to working towards race equality and determination to tackle race inequality at all levels.

We’ll be reporting progress against our action plan to Council and Senate regularly, and we’ll continue to consult and update the Warwick community on our progress.

Read more about the Race Equality Charter award here.

 

Why does the University consider race equality work to be important?

Our university community is extremely diverse with over a third of our students and a quarter of our staff from outside the UK. Additionally, the neighbouring city of Coventry is very multicultural with c. 33% of its population from minority ethnic groups. This wide ethnic and cultural mix contributes to making Warwick such a rewarding and interesting place to work and study. However, a key challenge is ensuring that all our students and staff feel valued, safe, and supported to achieve their full potential, with positive outcomes and progression based solely on merit and free from racial bias.

Sadly, like many organisations, the outcomes of our recent staff and student race equality surveys make clear that there are examples of discrimination and incidents of racism on our campus. For example, the survey emphasised the lack of racially diverse senior role models to encourage and inspire staff and students; this lack of representation in senior positions is a major concern.

To counter these challenges, a range of initiatives are currently underway to help eradicate racial bias and incidents of racism on our campus, through structural and cultural reform. We shouldn’t underestimate the work that needs to be done, but collectively we have the power to make real positive change.

 

You’re the Executive Sponsor for race, what does that mean, what do you do in that capacity?

The purpose of the Executive Sponsor role is to ensure that race equality is championed at Executive Board level, that means making sure it is given due consideration in all our decision making and that we’re building leadership that is representative of and can meet the needs of our whole community.

I also support a range of race equality initiatives across the University, for example I’m sponsoring a participant on our INspire talent programme, I am a member of our Race Equality Taskforce, and I led the team who undertook the self-assessment process for our Bronze Race Equality Charter (REC) award.

 

Can you say more about the work of the REC self-assessment team (SAT) and what came out of that work?

The REC aims to improve the representation, progression, and success of Black, Asian, and minority ethnic (BAME) staff and students within higher education. It provides a framework which institutions work through to reflect on institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of BAME staff and students.

"To counter these challenges, a range of initiatives are currently underway to help eradicate racial bias and incidents of racism on our campus, through structural and cultural reform. We shouldn’t underestimate the work that needs to be done, but collectively we have the power to make real positive change.”

The SAT did an in-depth analysis of all our staff and student data – covering the whole lifecycle of staff and students, including applications, attainment, and outcomes for students, and for staff looking at recruitment, pay, and promotion. We also carried out a survey, as I mentioned, and held focus groups to look at key issues in more depth and get qualitative data, providing insight that help bring the raw quantitative data to life.

One of the key things that the self-assessment work did is to draw out all the really good work that is already happening on our campus and highlighted that we have a huge amount of expertise relating to race equality on campus that we can draw upon and share. It helped to articulate what we already do well and, through the data, where we are performing better than sector, and where we have challenges and things to do.

It was tremendously valuable to hear from colleagues from across the campus and to bring that all together into a forward-looking plan. Things aren’t going to change by themselves, so having a clear plan with timescales and deliverables is an important step forward.

From a personal perspective, I learnt a lot from the SAT. I think one of the most significant things I learnt is on microaggressions, I don’t think I’d fully appreciated before the day-to-day inadvertent racism people experience. People tend to think of racism as clear examples of bigotry, like hate crimes, or discrimination, like not considering someone for a job because of their race. But microaggressions, like not being able to say someone’s name properly, or not bringing someone into a conversation can have a significant negative impact on BAME staff. Through better understanding and more thoughtful behaviours, we all have something positive to contribute.

 

What do you see as the key critical race equality issues we need to work on at the University?

Through the self-assessment process, we have identified several areas that we need to address urgently, our priorities will be to:

  • Increase student and staff racial diversity particularly in senior management and leadership teams.
  • Tackle racist incidents and increase staff and student confidence in reporting incidences of racial harassment and discrimination in our community.
  • Develop an inclusive and anti-racist culture.

 

Where are we currently doing well?

Over the last few years, we’ve established a systematic approach to monitor the impact of racism on all aspects of the student and staff life cycles and built up our understanding of what nurtures anti-racist culture. The lessons learnt spurred us to appoint Kulbir Shergill as Director of Social Inclusion in 2018 to lead a institutional Social Inclusion Strategy in collaboration with the Warwick community.

"We mustn’t shy away from talking about racism and race equality at Warwick. We need to challenge and review the way we appoint staff, the way we recruit students, how students advance through our programmes, and ensure that we’re inclusive and non-discriminatory in everything that we do."

We have three key performance indicators (KPIs) on race equality:

  • Eliminate the Black attainment gap by 2025. We’re already better than sector average on this, but still had a gap of 6.7% in 2019/20.
  • Achieve 25% BAME senior staff (5% to be Black) academics and professional services by 2030.
  • Eliminate the ethnicity pay gap by 2030.

We have worked closely with out students and staff, supporting their work in understanding the experiences of racism for our students including a curriculum decolonisation project.

The outcomes of this work have led to a much bigger programme, the 'Inclusive Education Model', taking a holistic approach to the student experience from the content of curriculum to the cultural experience in the classroom and on campus. We hope this will further improve outcomes for our BAME students.

Recognising the importance of racially diverse leaders as role models, we launched a pilot INspire programme last year, which aims to support senior BAME staff to progress into executive roles.

Staff and students have also developed an innovative 'Tackling Racial Inequality at Warwick’ training programme. The first year pilot programme has had excellent reviews from participants on its content and impact; this programme is an integral part of our engagement and education for staff on understanding and addressing racial inequality in HR and at Warwick. We have made a commitment to ensure that this programme is fully resourced.

 

What are your and the University’s ambitions for this area going forward?

We mustn’t shy away from talking about racism and race equality at Warwick. We need to challenge and review the way we appoint staff, the way we recruit students, how students advance through our programmes, and ensure that we’re inclusive and non-discriminatory in everything that we do. This is really important work.

 

Find out more...

Read more about Warwick's commitment, progress, and areas for improvement on social inclusion in our Report on Progress. Celebreate staff contributions to making Warwick a better place to live, study, and work on our Social Inclusion Award pages. And, discover more of the work we are doing to develop a culture that supports our students and staff to achieve their potential on our Projects page.