Tackling racism within UofG: introducing Equality & Diversity's Nighet Riaz

Dr Nighet Riaz has recently taken up the new post as Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Policy Adviser at University of Glasgow. She joins the Equality and Diversity Unit led by Mhairi Taylor, the Head of EDI, Janell Kelly and Katie Farrell. (The EDU is part of People and Organisational Development, and where the team supports both staff and student on equality issues.)

We are delighted that Nighet has kindly agreed to be a guest contributor to this month's HAWKEYE, to explain the background to the creation of this post, and let us know about the important work that lies ahead. 

Photo of Nighet Riaz

Following the publication of the EHRC report (2019), evidencing the prevalence of racism in universities across the UK, the University of Glasgow conducted their own internal investigation. The report highlighted that racism was experienced by its Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff and student population.

Alongside each finding in the report, an action point was put down encapsulating a set of actions which would need to be carried out to address the finding, stating:

  • how that issue would be addressed,
  • when that work would start (timeframe set), and
  • which structures would that piece of activity and work be reported to, and
  • finally. who would have overall accountability to ensure this work was at the forefront of tackling inequity and inappropriate behaviours on campus.

One such action was to create and appoint a role of EDI Policy Adviser to look specifically at moving the action plan forward, hence my recent appointment.

The Senior Management Group members have each taken on an objective to move some of the action points on the action plan forward, showing commitment through action and by leading with the staff and student community:

  • investigating the awarding gap
  • exploring recruitment data
  • carrying out focus groups to discuss career progression, and the promotion criteria
  • co-creation anti-racism campaigns,
  • decolonising the curriculum conference, Learning and Teaching Away Day and the Community of Practice decolonising the curriculum
  • the funding of eight James McCune Smith PhD scholarships for UK Black African and Afro-Caribbean heritage students
  • revisiting the report and support mechanisms
  • an ethnic minority staff and post-graduate researchers’ network are ongoing.

The long-term support of the senior and college leadership is critical for the action plan to be fulfilled in its entirety, for inequitable structures, policies and behaviours are made visible, understood, then challenged and addressed. There are colleges and schools which have well developed EDI Committees, with MVLS being a best practice model of how to start this work, where there is more understanding and ownership to affect the culture of the college, and where there is the recognition that it is every person’s responsibility to tackle racism and inequity. For those of us who are anti-racist educators and practitioners, we have seen what happens when this work is deprioritised, we have seen how racism shifts and changes in different spaces, at different times of history, and in times of austerity. Therefore. the importance to have skills to recognise and name racism is the first step, in order for it to be addressed.

In my previous role as Programme Adviser at Advance HE, I successfully co-led 2 projects – the first with Khadija Mohammed, raising the awareness of race, racism, and whiteness across the tertiary education sector and the second with Sue Clyne, tackling the underrepresentation of ethnic diversity in the workforce on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council. The Declaration that emerged from the project was nationally endorsed by the Minister for Further and Higher Education and Sciences, Mr Richard Lochhead, and the university and college sector in August 2021.

I completed my PhD in sociology of education, exploring the experiences of minority ethnic young people as they transitioned across and out of compulsory education and the pathways they could access from further or higher education, employment, or training in 2016.

Dr Nighet Riaz
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Policy Adviser 
University of Glasgow

Scottish Funding Council-funded and Advance HE-led race equality and anti-racism projects

We look forward to working with Nighet in the coming weeks and months, and warmly welcome her to this crucial role. 

Find out more about Nighet on LinkedIn 

First published: 2 May 2018