OfS criticised for lack of diversity on student hate crime panel

English regulator promises to make Student Welfare and Safeguarding Expert Advisory panel more representative

November 1, 2019
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England’s higher education regulator has pledged to take action after it was criticised for a lack of diversity on a panel tasked with advising its work on harassment and hate crime.

The issue arose when the Office for Students tweeted a picture of members of its Student Welfare and Safeguarding Expert Advisory Panel. Times Higher Education understands that the picture may have not included all panel members.

“Our new Student Welfare and Safeguarding Expert Advisory Panel met for the first time today in London. The panel has been formed to advise and contribute to our work in areas such as mental health, harassment, hate crime, and sexual misconduct,” the tweet said.

However, Twitter users were quick to point out that there were no black students in the picture.

Olumide Adisa, research fellow and interim head of the Centre of Abuse Research at the University of Suffolk, tweeted that it was a “Fab development! But v. concerning that there’s no black representation on your panel (from the pic). Black & minority ethnic groups living in the UK more likely to be diagnosed with mental health problems & more likely to disengage from MH services.”

Melanie Crofts, a senior lecturer at De Montfort Law School, agreed. “No excuse for not having PoC represented,” she tweeted.

The row comes weeks after an Equality and Human Rights Commission report revealed that a quarter of ethnic minority students in the UK have experienced racial harassment at university. It found that 56 per cent of respondents to its survey who had been racially harassed had experienced racist name-calling, insults and jokes and 20 per cent had been physically attacked.

The report also said universities were “oblivious” to the scale of the problem.

A spokesman for the Office for Students said: “We discussed the membership of the group at its first meeting with the aim of achieving diversity on the panel. We agreed further action was needed and are actively seeking to address this issue. Diverse voices and underrepresented groups must be heard across all of the OfS’ work and advisory panels.”


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