Jennifer Hastings, EDI Projects & Partnerships Manager at King’s College London explores the UK Government’s recently published Inclusive Britain report and the potential implications for King’s as a leading university.
Inclusive Britain is the government’s response to the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities investigation that was published on the 31st March 2021 and made 25 recommendations. The actions outlined in Inclusive Britain are wide ranging, covering areas such as health, education and even the language we use. It isn’t without critics (some condemn its push to ‘de-politicise’ racial inequality and focus on individual action rather than structural change) however this blog aims to provide an insight into the potential implications on King’ rather than debate its merit. The below list is by no means exhaustive- there are 74 actions that will interest the King’s community to varying extents and we’re keen to hear from anyone whose work is impacted by the report.
Terminology and data collection
There’s a number of actions pertaining to the language we use and therefore the data we collect. The government has stopped using the acronym ‘BAME’, an umbrella term, and the Racial Disparities Unit (RDU) plans to consult on the best way to record and communicate ethnicity data and issues.
We know that language is important. It has an impact on accessibility, inclusion and people’s sense of belonging. We also know that there’s often disagreement over the ‘right’ terminology to use. In our recent race equality survey, we asked staff and students for alternatives to BME (Black, Minority Ethnic) and the results varied, however many did recommend referring to an individual’s ethnicity rather than using an umbrella term. We are currently developing our own guidance on terminology and look forward to sharing across King’s.
Actions around artificial intelligence (AI) include addressing racial bias in algorithmic decision making. Richard Salter, Director of Analytics at King’s says: “The use of AI technology is still very much in its infancy in terms of Professional Services at King’s but we’re cognisant of the opportunities and risks, so the recommendations around bias in algorithms, including disproportionate impact on minority groups are very pertinent. If there was a national algorithmic standard this would certainly be beneficial and I would expect we would want to at least be in line with this. We are hoping to establish an Ethical Use policy for AI for Professional Service at King’s as part of the Senior Data Governance Committee which was set up last year.”
Health and clinical research
King’s has four health faculties and so any actions related to public health and services are going to be of interest. There will be a health disparities white paper (although this is not solely focused on race but will also consider other factors such as socioeconomic status), a review of potential racial biases in medical equipment, steps to address maternal health disparities and a move to increase ethnic minority participation in research and clinical trials.
King’s has already been conducting research into health inequalities, such as the Cicely Saunders Institute of Palliative Care, Policy and Rehabilitation’s work on socioeconomic inequality in end-of-life care (examples here and here) and the experiences and needs of LGBT people (examples here, here, here and here).
Student Support and Widening Participation
Several actions aim to improve student outcomes, which links in with much of the work carried out by the Student Transitions and Outcomes department, such as their approach to closing the attainment gap and Conversations about Race. King’s is also refreshing its Student Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy, which will include an objective to improve mental health outcomes for underrepresented groups.
In terms of accountability, there will be a report to Parliament in March 2022. However, given many of the actions require further research or consultation, I would hope to see a significant amount of public engagement in the meantime. Given King’s has expertise in so many of the areas covered in Inclusive Britain, we have a real opportunity to be sector leading and shape how the UK tackles racism.
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