Academic institutions are not separate from society, the two are a reflection of each other. There is a relationship between learning and living, and education providers must regularly re-negotiate their terms with the world to be a catalyst and vehicle for change.
Our previous Principal set out the university’s position on racial justice in an open letter to the Arts University Plymouth community in June 2020. The conversation on representation and a review of our policies and procedures continues under our new Principal Professor Paul Fieldsend-Danks alongside staff and students as we look to address racism, abuse, harm and hate. There is still much work to do in actioning racial justice and developing infrastructure and culture which ensures we are providing an inclusive environment for our students, staff, and the wider Plymouth community.
In our 2020 statement, we promised a year-long conversation on representation, and in that year our community achieved the following:
We implemented an Inclusivity and Diversity Forum, which ran a Continuing Professional Development (CPD) event in 2021, which was led by Senior Lecturers in BA (Hons) Photography and BA (Hons) Graphic Communication with support from our Senior Lecturer of Education and Staff Development. With input from staff across the institution, the forum gives a platform to different perspectives covering a range of topics such as ‘Decolonising the curriculum’ and subject-specific talks on the ‘Culture of Inclusivity’.
Arts University Plymouth’s Research Fellow coordinated the Empire & Place Speaker series. Open to students and staff, the series of speakers addressed the relationship of place, from historical and current ties in Plymouth to post-colonialist issues related to structural racism, classism, and matters of belonging. We are looking to continue this speaker series in 2022 - more details coming soon.
Our Heads of School and Registry team worked together in 2020 to include a new section to our Annual Monitoring Reports for all undergraduate programmes, so they all have opportunities to reflect on Social Justice, Creative Learning, Widening Cultural Diversity, Equality and Diversity.
Our latest Admissions Policy communicates to applicants and our community that the university is committed to creating a student body that is balanced and diverse in terms of cultural background and experience, providing fair and equal access to all prospective students who are able to demonstrate the potential to benefit from and contribute to a programme of study; and the potential to complete a chosen programme of study successfully, regardless of background.
Our BA (Hons) Fashion Design Subject Leader became our representative for F.A.C.E (Fashion Academics Creating Equality) with the aim of embedding culture and diverse perspectives into the curriculum. This has allowed several different forums at the university to be briefed on the objectives of this group, including the ‘See My Face’ campaign. It has also been presented at Learning & Teaching CPD days, to the Staff Wellbeing Group, and to the Equality, Diversity & Inclusivity Committee.
Our actions also extend to our Pre-Degree cohort, with our Character Project being replaced with our New Skills Project which includes ways to celebrate cultural diversity, promote inclusion and safely challenge prejudice and discrimination.
Our Library has upheld its project on inclusivity looking at how the library collection represents our student body, including the addition of more books covering Black history, art, and the civil rights movement.
Our Students’ Union created an additional Executive Committee role dedicated to representing ethnic minority students at Arts University Plymouth. This representative sits on the Equality, Diversity & Inclusivity Committee alongside fellow student representatives and staff across Arts University Plymouth.
Our Head of Compliance & Quality Systems has produced an anonymous online system to make reporting and monitoring all types of harassment easier. The reporting tool can be used by our HE and FE students, as well as Arts University Plymoutht staff.
In November 2021 we joined a discussion with Advance HE in regard to supporting the adaptation of their Racial Equality Charter for small and specialist institutions like ourselves. We hope to report back the steps we have made with Advance HE by the end of the current academic year.
Our current strategic plan reflects our ongoing drive for social justice, through community impact and social mobility. There is still much to do to drive forward the changes needed within Arts University Plymouth to ensure that we expedite a diverse and well-supported creative talent base within our graduate and staff community. Our upcoming work with the Advance HE Race Equality Charter is one of many changes that will help guide and formalise our future approach.