Race, Ethnicity, Religion and Belief Group (RERBG)

Group Overview 

The University’s Race, Ethnicity, Religion and Belief Group (RERBG) is responsible for identifying and implementing strategies and best practice with regards to race, ethnicity and religious groups (including non-belief). Specifically, the group is responsible for identifying actions the University should take to address and improve any issues which mean that Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) or religiously/belief affiliated staff or students experience disadvantage.

New Race Equality Charter Chair announcement from Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal and Vice-Chancellor (13 January 2022):

I am delighted to report that Dr Akira O’Connor, of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, has been appointed our Race Equality Charter Chair, and will lead and coordinate the institutional efforts required to fulfil St Andrews’ ambitions to achieve Race Equality Charter status. Key focuses of the REC work will be to understand and address the experience of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities at all levels of the University, to enable us to make meaningful interventions in staff recruitment, representation, pay gaps and promotion gaps; student admissions, representation and attainment; discrimination, bullying and harassment; and curriculum reform. The vision, grasp of brief, and commitment which Akira will bring to this critical role will be immensely valuable to our institution.


  • Progress the University’s strategic priorities and actions related to Diverse St Andrews and the People Strategy, with respect to race, ethnicity, religion and belief.
  • Work towards the institutional attainment of Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter.
  • Coordinate the development and delivery of race, religion and belief related training programmes (for example, the BAME leadership programme).
  • Receive minutes and amalgamate information and feedback from race, religion and belief focused groups within the University, such as the BAME Students' Network.
  • Provide support in ensuring that the actions that pertain to race within the University’s equality outcomes action plan are achieved.
  • Promote equality for minority ethnic and religiously affiliated staff and students by providing input (via consultation) to the University’s plans, strategic priorities, policies and organisational and cultural change activity.
  • Raise internal awareness regarding race equality, cultural and religious diversity.
  • Work to identify potential areas of concern in University policies, procedures and practices.
  • Develop evidence-based practical solutions for the identified areas of concern.
  • Develop expertise and knowledge of racial, ethnic and religious equality issues.
  • Provide support in ensuring that the actions that pertain to the Prince’s Responsible Business Network’s ‘Business in the Community Race at Work Charter’ are achieved.


  • Race Equality Charter Chair, supported by the Head of EDI
  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team representation – including but not restricted to Deputy Head of EDI, EDI Assistant, Project Manager in Equalities
  • Student representation – preferably including but not restricted to the BAME Student Officer and Director of Wellbeing
  • Staff religious representation – preferably including, but not restricted to the University’s Chaplain
  • Student religious representation – for example, representation from the University’s student faith groups
  • Planning representative
  • Human Resource (HR) representation
  • Other membership to include a combination of academic and professional services staff, representing various grades, genders, religious affiliations, and racial and ethnic backgrounds

Membership terms

  • Group membership should be capped at 26 members.
  • Some of the committee members are in elected positions (fixed periods), and therefore it is envisioned that through the election process, the group will evolve naturally.
  • There should be no more than three members in the group from the same School or Department.
  • The group will strive to maintain a minimum of 60% BAME and 40% White membership split.
  • The group will strive to ensure that the membership reflects a diverse range of religious affiliations.

Current members

Akira O’Connor

Akira was appointed as the Race Equality Charter Chair in January 2022, to chair RERBG as a Race Equality Charter Self Assessment Team (REC-SAT).  Akira is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, and sits on the School's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee. He is also a direct electee to the University Senate, where he represents the Life Sciences Constituency. Akira's research investigates how people use many sources of information to make decisions, for example, about what they remember.


Sukhi Bains

Sukhi Bains supports the Chair of the group, and is the Head of EDI at the University. Sukhi leads on the University’s statutory equalities requirements, as well as associated accreditation initiatives. Sukhi liaises with external organisations on behalf of the University specific to EDI, such as Advance HE, Equality and Human Rights Commission, Prince’s Responsible Business Network, Business in the Community, Scottish Funding Council, and Universities Scotland.

Stuart Hall

Stuart is the Deputy Head of EDI at the University, and leads the advice and guidance for the REC submission. 

Chloe Fielding

Chloe is the Students’ Association Science and Medicine Faculty President for the 2020-2021 academic year. Her main role as Faculty President is to support the Director of Education, the School Presidents and the Language Conveners. As one of the student reps, her role in the group is to represent the student voice and advocate for equality for all students.

Jasmin Hinds

Jasmin is a Project Manager in Equalities and works on various projects across the University to further embed equality, diversity and inclusion. Jasmin is also an Associate Director of the Centre for Research, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (CREDI). Her own research primarily focuses on the experiences and outcomes of different socio-demographic groups in higher education, specifically Black men.

Donald MacEwan

Donald is the Chaplain to the University, responsible for the Chaplaincy’s worship, pastoral care of students and staff, support for global students and for people of different faiths, cultures, traditions and philosophies of life. As a minister in the Church of Scotland, he serves as the Convener of the church’s Theological Forum, with a particular interest currently in eco-theology. Donald grew up in Glasgow and lived in Japan and Ireland before moving to Fife in 2001.

Mairi Stewart

Mairi is the Director of Human Resources. Working with the AVP Diversity, she is responsible for the development and delivery of the People Strategy. She works closely with the EDI team to embed equality, diversity and inclusion across the University.

Summary of actions taken in relation to race and ethnicity (2019 to 2021)

In keeping with the University’s commitment to transparency, the RERBG web page will be updated on an ongoing basis with actions we are undertaking in relation to ethnicity and race. The aim of this activity is to promote awareness and ensure we maintain the momentum required to support equality, diversity, and inclusion within our institution, to make a real difference.

Whilst we are taking the step to publish the ongoing actions, we acknowledge that there is more work to be done, and we will continue to put effort into learning, understanding, and addressing areas for improvement. We encourage a collective monitoring of the effectiveness of our ongoing policies and practices. Should you wish to comment, please email peoplestrat@st-andrews.ac.uk.

People Strategy

In 2019, the University undertook a large consultation exercise to collect the views of 1,000 staff and students, through focus groups and anonymised surveys. This dataset was analysed to identify key themes and, where possible, ‘group specific’ trends, including trends in BAME respondents. This research informed the development of the University’s People Strategy and its Action Plan.

Overarching actions in relation to ethnicity include:

  • improving our understanding of students’ and staff members’ experience of applying and being accepted to St Andrews (including from diverse perspectives)
  • supporting networks of University communities around specific issues, experiences and interests, including BAME communities
  • creating space and opportunity for all staff and students to express ideas on how we can improve St Andrews
  • improving web content to attract students by enhancing visibility of access routes and support and ensuring that St Andrews’ outward face presents an inclusive culture for students to find easily
  • taking a systematic and proactive approach to ask students in their final year if they are interested in further study at St Andrews
  • ensuring teaching sessions are as inclusive as possible (for example, lecture capture, embedding inclusive practices and innovative and diverse modes of learning and interaction in small group sessions)
  • extending the University web page offering to provide prospective employees with a greater understanding of what to expect from the University (for example, the number of countries represented in the workforce)
  • ensuring job design, advertising, strategic timing of recruitment and use of word of mouth and networks is optimal to attract the broadest range of talent
  • ensuring a consistent, well-planned and well-supported approach to inductions, including comprehensive diversity promotional material and answers to FAQs.

Data improvements

EDI progress reports

We have developed a far more comprehensive dataset for identifying where disadvantage may lie. In 2020, we published a comprehensive set of EDI statistics to share with our community and to ensure as wide an engagement with them as possible. These include our 'ethnicity pay gap and promotion gap for staff' and 'participation, retention and attainment gaps by ethnicity for students'. See the EDI progress reports.

Governance and representation improvements

CEDI established

We developed a governance structure for EDI matters within the University. This involved moving away from having the Institutional Athena SWAN meeting as the central EDI (CEDI) committee. It also involved moving away from a focus primarily on gender and academics to the Central EDI committee.

THE CEDI committee includes representatives from:

  • Professional Services
  • Student Services
  • Student Sabbatical Officers
  • the Race, Ethnicity, Religion and Belief Group
  • the EDI team

The committee focuses on a range of areas of disadvantage, including:

  • disability
  • race
  • ethnicity
  • religion
  • belief
  • gender
  • socio-economic status. 

Establishing the Race, Ethnicity, Religion and Belief Equality Group

The University has established a Race, Ethnicity, Religion and Belief Equality Group (December 2019). This group will be pivotal in addressing identifiable gaps related to ethnicity (for example, recruitment, promotion, retention), and will work towards making underlying organisational changes to secure the Advance HE Race Equality Charter.

Working with students to examine key race-related issues

We have worked with students on key equalities-related decisions. For example, we worked over an academic year with the Director of Wellbeing, Student President, Director of Education and Member for Racial Equality on an admissions-focused working group to explore the viability of name-blind admissions to increase the numbers of students from a BAME background.

Equality, diversity and inclusion staff appointments and investments

In January 2022, Dr Akira O’Connor, of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience, was appointed as our Race Equality Charter Chair, to lead and coordinate the institutional efforts required to fulfil St Andrews’ ambitions to achieve Race Equality Charter status. Key focuses of the REC work will be to understand and address the experience of people from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities at all levels of the University, to enable us to make meaningful interventions in staff recruitment, representation, pay gaps and promotion gaps; student admissions, representation and attainment; discrimination, bullying and harassment; and curriculum reform. 

In March 2020, the University appointed a Research Fellow and Project Manager in Equalities to work with the AVP Diversity to implement EDI initiatives across the University.  The University also appointed an EDI Project Officer.

In addition, the University has appointed two EDI Area Leads (one for Arts and Divinity and one for Science) to further the EDI agenda within their respective faculties. These roles build on the existing EDI staff complement of our Head of EDI, two Equality and Diversity Awards Advisers and an EDI Assistant, which was further extended following the recruitment of a new Deputy Head of EDI post (commenced in April 2022).

Recruitment and promotion

The University remains committed to attracting more BAME staff applicants. St Andrews advertised vacancies in various media publications, and the first Scottish university to do so, including:

  • Windrush Magazine (June 2018, June 2019)
  • Black History Month website (October 2016 to date)
  • Black History Month Magazine (October 2019, October 2021)
  • BAME Education and Careers Guide Magazine (November 2019)
  • Black Professors Forum website (May 2020 to date)
  • Glasgow Mela (September 2021) (largest multi-cultural event in Scotland).

Heads of School and units are asked to write out to all staff twice a year asking for their interest in sitting on a recruitment panel and reminding them of available and required training. This is a new commitment to support the diversification of panel membership and recruitment.

Enhanced staff and student support

Leadership programme

Since 2016-2017, the University has supported members of staff to take part in the Advance HE Diversifying Leadership (BAME) programme. This is an external programme aimed at BAME early career academics and professional services staff below senior lecturer level or equivalent (typically for University staff, grades 6 to 8) who would like to develop and explore issues relating to taking their first step into a leadership role.

BAME mentoring programmes

The Head of EDI, Sukhi Bains, is working with OSDS to develop a BAME mentoring scheme for staff. A BAME mentoring scheme for students was launched this year by CEED.

Support for study and work overseas

The Study Abroad programme, Global Office and Student Services have worked with AVP Diversity, Head of Mediation and Wellbeing, and Head of EDI to improve support for staff and students travelling abroad; this includes supporting BAME staff and students. For instance, we have agreed a way forward to ensure that information about each country's equalities profile is available for students when deciding on a study abroad destination.

New protocols are also being developed, or improved where they already exist, so that students are able to disclose aspects of their background (for example, religion, sexual orientation and ethnicity) that may influence the choice of host family.

BAME Student Ambassadors

We are working with the Student Ambassador programme leads to ensure more BAME students are recruited. We are aiming to recruit a more diverse pool of students in the next round of appointments. This will probably be in January due to Covid restrictions. We are also planning to increase BAME student presence at Open Days, regardless of whether they feel they can commit to become Ambassadors.

BAME student recruitment

This year we are actioning a recommendation from the Name-Blind research group to support BAME students to visit their secondary schools to act as ambassadors for the University.

BAME Staff Network

Since June 2018, the University launched its first Staff BAME Network which has continued to run in the context of Covid. The purpose of the informal network, which is supported and fully funded by the University, is to provide:

  • a confidential forum to share knowledge and good practice through networking
  • effective solutions in policy and planning development
  • events and initiatives to increase the positive profile of visible-BAME staff.

Equality Impact Assessments

The Head of EDI is leading on preparing Covid planning Equality Impact Assessments for BAME members of the University, by using statutory body guidance, such as from the Equality & Human Rights Commission. This includes a set of guidance for BAME staff and students in the context of Covid.

External representation and charters

Scottish Race Equality Network

At present, the University’s Head of EDI chairs the Scottish Race Equality Network (SREN), which is a forum for sharing institutional best practice. He is also a member of the Advance HE Race Working Group, with recommendations from the group to inform actions for all Scottish colleges and universities on race equality, as an outcome from the EHRC race in higher education work. Both are facilitated by the Scottish Funding Council.

Race at Work Charter

In May 2019, the University became the first university to become a signatory of The Prince’s Responsible Business Network’s Race at Work Charter.

Advance HE

AVP Diversity is the institutional lead for a project between Advance HE and four other Scottish Universities, designed to support their progression to achieving the Race Equality Charter.

Consultation and audit

SUMS Consulting: University of St Andrews Race & Ethnicity Report 

Commissioned by the University of St Andrews, SUMS Consulting was asked to review the University’s approach to race and ethnicity practice. This report documents SUMS findings based on:
• a series of engagement exercises – including one-to-one meetings, focus groups (attended by staff and students), and attendance at various committee meetings/network groups;
• a review of documentation available on race and ethnicity including strategies, ongoing initiatives and plans; 
• comparison to appropriate sector best practice (relevant to the St Andrews context).

Provided in March 2022, the report presents and findings against three key themes: Strategy and Governance, Operations and Process, People and Culture. 

Download: SUMS-Consulting-St-Andrews-Race-Ethnicity-Report-Mar2022 (PDF, 1,498 KB)

Supporting the BAME Staff Network to submit testimonials

We are working with the BAME Staff Network to receive staff testimonials relating to race and ethnicity at St Andrews. The network has made a general call, and EDI Directors have followed this up. Staff have been offered a secure email or to report through the anonymous route of Report + Support. Testimonials will be collated and submitted to the University’s Court.

BLM Principal’s Office meetings with BAME Staff and Student Networks

Roundtables were held between the Principal, AVP Diversity and others to hear staffs' and students' general and specific concerns. A letter was submitted by staff in advance of this and a report by students. Actions have been taken in the wake of these meetings. Their report is developed for wider publication.

The Faculty EDI Leads have supported the BAME Students Network to produce the final draft of their Action Plan, and this will be published early summer 2021.

Inclusive curriculum audit and activity

The Project Manager in Equalities is working with Student Services and the Proctor’s Office to audit the inclusive curriculum initiatives currently active across the University, with a focus on race and ethnicity as well as gender and socio-economic status etc. The audit will identify areas to improve and ensure all Schools remain abreast of sector best practice.

The Library is also working with staff and students in the Race, Ethnicity, Religion and Belief Equality Group to highlight areas of their collection speaking to inequalities related to race and ethnicity and have produced a reading list on anti-racism.

Global Challenges Programme

This year’s Global Challenges Programme was focused on the question 'How can we make St Andrews a beacon of inclusivity?' The AVP Diversity will work with all four applying groups to use their funding to implement the ideas for change. All were focused on race and ethnicity.

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Fund

In the 2019-2020 round, two applications were focused on decolonising the curriculum and archival research on race and ethnicity win awards.

In the 2020-2021 round, one award was for the development of a workshop addressing Scottish universities’ history of enslaved people. We also provided ad hoc funds for ‘Minorities in Philosophy’ and inclusive curriculum initiatives in International Relations in 2020.

Reporting improvements

Report and Support

We have adopted launched the Report and Support online tool. This tool can be used to report a wide range of negative experiences and behaviours, both anonymously and by name or other identifier (for example, matriculation number). This tool will supplement the existing reporting, complaint and support seeking mechanisms - both for urgent and non-urgent issues. It will allow us to respond in a timely and appropriate manner but also to identify ‘hotspots’ of concerning behaviour across the University and to intervene (for example, with roving, bespoke training). The anonymous reporting mechanism route specifically asks for feedback on why people feel they cannot report with contact details.

Data patterns will be regularly reported to the University community.

Mediation Service

The University has launched a new Mediation Service to explore an informal and low-conflict route of hearing and resolving concerns about inappropriate behaviour. This service was specifically established to support those experiencing harassment and recognising the ‘impact of harassment on people's mental health and wellbeing’ (Theme 3 of the report).

The University has a new Head of Mediation and Wellbeing who has also worked with Student Minds to establish a new measure of wellbeing on the charter relating to mediation as a resolution tool.

Having Difficult Conversations About Race Toolkit

The University’s Project Manager in Equalities is liaising with a representative from Advance HE’s Anti-racist curriculum project to better understand and support the development of an anti-racist curriculum. The Project Manager in Equalities is developing a ‘Having Difficult Conversations About Race Toolkit’, which has been reviewed by the Race, Ethnicity, Religion and Belief Group. This toolkit will be launched in the Autumn of 2021 with an event called ‘How to have difficult conversations about race: in the context of decolonising the curriculum’, which will include a panel of specialist external speakers visiting St Andrews (virtually).

Schools also continue to organise events pertaining to decolonising their disciplines. For example, staff and students within the School of Geography and Sustainable Development organised an event called ‘Decolonising Geography and the University' in April 2021, which also featured a specialist external panel.

Investigator improvements

We are establishing a Special Investigator Group to take on the most sensitive cases – for example, those involving gender-based violence but also hate crime, bullying and harassment based on protected characteristics. All investigator staff are receiving augmented training relating to collecting evidence, writing reports etc.


Dignity and Inclusion at Work Portfolio

The Dignity and Inclusion at Work portfolio includes a series of relevant training and development courses for staff.

Compulsory diversity training

We have also developed a compulsory 'Equality and Diversity' online training module that became part of the student induction via matriculation (August 2021). This was co-designed by the Head of E&D and members from the Student Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) Network.