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Race equality and the curriculum


Note: guidance was previously on the 'Teaching, learning and assessment' webpage Section 14.3:


The University of St Andrews has a cosmopolitan and varied student population, with many nationalities, cultures and beliefs represented. We pride ourselves on providing a very high standard of education to all our students, and on making our curriculum accessible to all students, whatever their background and whoever they are.

For some subjects, the nature of their content means talking about the world in all its complexity and variety. It is right that as we do so, we reflect upon the way that we deliver our teaching, and on the various sensitivities that we touch upon, both in terms of those we choose to study, and of those we meet in our students.

In this policy we have not sought to be prescriptive; we appreciate that much here will come as second nature, and much will be irrelevant to some kinds of teaching and subject matter. Nevertheless, we are all challenged by the recent Single Equality Act to think about these issues, in addition to our legal Equality Duty on Race.

Overview of the Equality Act (2010)

  • Became an Act in April 2010, provisions came into force on 1 October 2010 covering a wider population.
  • Simplifies the interpretation and understanding of 116 pieces of equality laws for the public.
  • Makes it easier for employees and services users to bring cases of discrimination.
  • Extends the current powers of employment tribunals by strengthening the enforcement of equality laws.
  • Chapter 2 of the Act has specifics for Higher Education.
  • Page 234 of the Act, explains that existing equality laws have been consolidated into the one single Act, therefore the following existing equality laws for Race have been consolidated into the Single Equality Act:- Equality Act (2006); Race Relations Act; Race Relations Amendments Act.

Purpose and design (rationale, aims and learning outcomes)

Consider whether your module content naturally lends itself to identifying/exploring racial equality issues (e.g. module on the African slave trade). If it does not, there might be ways in which racial equality issues could nevertheless be addressed, to the students’ benefit.

  1. Does the range of options available to students within the curriculum appropriately reflect the diversity of the cultural heritage of the student body?

  2. Are different perspectives on or interpretations of the subject acknowledged, even if the nature of the module does not allow for equal time to be devoted to all perspectives?

    • For example, provide a supplementary reading list for students who wish to explore other perspectives in more depth.

  3. Does the curriculum reflect the needs and issues of a wide range of student groups?

    • For example, monitor the composition of one’s own classes year on year to identify any changes in ethnic/racial makeup, to ensure the module remains relevant to all.

Teaching methods and delivery

  1. In what ways might racial equality issues affect your teaching and students’ learning?

    • Be familiar with the University’s Equal Opportunity and Race Equality policies, and be able to direct students to the relevant policies and support materials.

      Emphasise that students have a responsibility under the University’s policies and could face disciplinary action for violations.

      Consider assigning students to teams/groups rather than allowing self-selection, in order to ensure that all students in each group are exposed to a broad ethnic view.

      Emphasise that students doing team/group work should take into account all members of the group when selecting times / venues for getting together (eg a pub is unlikely to suit orthodox Muslims or some Christians, and these students may not attend the meetings; Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays can all be sensitive times).

      Point out alternatives that the students might not otherwise consider, such as virtual meetings using VLE discussion boards and chat rooms.

      Consider whether certain approaches (eg small group activities) might be more difficult for some students (eg ethnic minority female in a predominantly male class). Consider alternatives in such situations (eg use of virtual tutorial groups through the VLE).

  2. Are appropriate alternatives provided when lectures clash with culturally sensitive days or religious festivals?

    • Provide online access to lecture materials and/or arrange for note-sharing.

  3. Where modules include placements, field trips or a period abroad, are all students who wish to take up this opportunity able to do so?

    • Investigate to make sure a non-discriminatory experience will be had during placement.

      There should be a ‘standards contract’ with the placement provider which sets out what is expected in terms of equal opportunities as well as the standard of support that all students should get throughout the placement.

      Make sure there are procedures to deal with placement providers who breach the ‘standards contract’ or the University’s race equality policy.

      If particular students are unable to participate, provide alternative arrangements.

Learning resources

  1. Are you confident that all of your curriculum materials (eg lectures, handouts, overheads/slides, videos) are free from racial, gender and other forms of bias? (Unless the bias is being explicitly dealt with as part of the module.)

    • Carefully review all materials that are not self-generated, eg videos, CDs and DVDs, external websites, other software material.

  2. Curriculum materials can allow us to reflect on the fact that Britain is a multi¬cultural society. Have you thought about the messages (both explicit and implicit) that your materials are sending?

    • If using photographs, slides or other images of people, try to show a mix of ethnicity and gender (unless the point being illustrated requires otherwise).

      Use names reflecting ethnic diversity (and/or gender-neutral) for case studies and other module materials.

      Where appropriate, use source materials and examples that contain a range of social, political, economic and religious perspectives, events, theories and achievements.

Assessment processes (including methods)

All students have a basic right to:

  • Assessment procedures, criteria and regulations published in a full and
    accessible form and made freely available to students in advance.

  • Assessment via a range of methods within the programme as a whole, in order to do full justice to students’ often diverse knowledge, skills and academic backgrounds.

  • Feedback on students’ work given in a sensitive manner.

  • Equal opportunities incorporated into systems of fair and impartial marking and assessment.

In light of the Single Equality Act 2010: Race, other issues should be considered when developing and implementing assessment.

  1. Are you confident that assessment procedures are balanced and that they do not unfairly discriminate against any individual or group of students?

    • Be sensitive to cultural and religious differences with regards to food and drink when setting assignments (eg orthodox Muslim students might find it offensive to be asked to write a business plan for a brewery).
  2. Try to ensure that exams and class tests do not clash with culturally significant days and religious festivals. It is the responsibility of students to notify staff of potential clashes.

  3. Are appropriate alternatives provided if a clash is unavoidable?

    • Be prepared to provide a separate exam on a different day.

Module evaluation and review procedures

There should be some mechanism (eg Staff Student Consultative Committee) by which all students can raise curriculum issues, and provide input on the fairness of module design, presentation, learning resources and assessment. If there is evidence of student dissatisfaction, what is the response? Racial equality issues should be considered as part of this general process.

If you have a diverse student body, you might also consider:

  1. How would you review teaching materials, syllabi and exams to ensure equal opportunity for all social groups?

  2. Are achievement levels monitored by ethnic group and gender, and significant patterns of academic achievement identified and addressed?

  3. Are retention rates monitored by ethnicity and gender and significant differences in retention identified and addressed?

Online resources for race inclusion

To ensure practical institutional compliance with the new Single Equality Act, the University of St Andrews is an active member of the Scottish Liaison Group, which is organised by the Scottish Funding Council. Weblink:

This method enables learning and teaching staff at the University to access and utilise tried and tested up to date documents for greater curriculum inclusion.

The following are resources are recommended by the University Equality & Diversity Officer:

1. Race Equality Toolkit

For compliance with the Single Equality Act 2010, Universities Scotland have updated their race Equality Toolkit and made it more user friendly for university staff to use online.


The toolkit covers the following areas with examples specific for Scottish universities:

  • Providing opportunities to engage with the concepts of racism, racial equality and ethnic diversity
  • Addressing stereotypical and/or prejudicial perspectives
  • Adopting an internationalist approach
  • Using case studies
Learning & Teaching
  • Meeting the needs of UK and international bilingual students
  • Learning styles
  • Placements and field trips

2. Equality Challenge Unit resources

  • ECU Ethnicity degree attainment project report 2008
  • ECU Religious observance in HE May 2009
  • ECU Work placements in the arts and cultural sector October 2010

3. University of St Andrews resources

The following can be found on our Equality and Diversity webpage.

  • A-Z Cultural Ethnicity Religion Belief Considerations (Used by many in Scottish FE & HE plus voluntary agencies for good practice)
  • Black History Month October 2010 Resources (sign posting paper)
  • Event & Meeting Inclusion Guide
  • Guide to Alternative Phrases & Words





Human Resources

University of St Andrews
The Old Burgh School

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St Andrews
KY16 9LB
Scotland, United Kingdom

Tel: +44(0)1334 463096