The Inclusive University

Ron Ritchie: his thoughts on leaving UWE

Posted by Vicky Swinerd | 0 Comments
09Sep2015

Contributed by Ron Ritchie, Senior Diversity Champion

A retirement event for UWE's senior diversity champion, Prof Ron Ritchie, was held on 26 August in the Community Hub.
 
Ron was invited to reflect on his 40 year career in education in the greater Bristol area as a secondary school teacher, primary teacher and leader, local authority advisory teacher and HE teacher and leader.
 
He explained that he had very mixed feeling about leaving UWE having tried so hard to get here - first in the late 80s - before, several applications later,  he finally arrived here in 2001. He said that he had wanted to work here for a simple reason - it seemed like an institution that shared many of the values he held as important. It turned out to be a move that never disappointed him - he said he had always been immensely proud of the difference UWE makes to its students, its staff, local communities and the  local economy, culture and society. It had, he stated, been a genuine privilege to work here with many highly talented and committed individuals.
 
He emphasised the importance to him of values - what we hold as important as human beings - and noted that there's a big difference between espousing values and living them out. He said he had always tried to do the latter, not always successfully!
 
He explained his commitment to social justice and moral purpose was a result of experiencing the transforming power of education on his own life, being the first in his family to go to university. He had left school and started an apprenticeship in the aircraft industry which led to him studying aeronautics and astronautics at Southampton University. Whilst there he found life in student politics and the SU more stimulating and rewarding than his academic work. He spent a lot of time on campaigns such as those related to improving the opportunities for local youth and challenging negative attitudes towards mental health.
 
At this point, Ron reflected on choices we all have to become a 'prisoner, passenger or participant' in society - he had determined to become a participant and an activist!
 
He decided to complete his degree and train as a teacher. His experiences on a PGCE at Sussex University, especially in disadvantaged areas like the Moulscombe Estate, reinforced his commitment to fighting injustice and promoting equality. As a young teacher in a challenging Bristol comprehensive, his love of teaching developed and his activism led to him becoming the school's NUT rep.
 
He explained that his growing understanding and commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion was strengthened through living in Bristol and valuing the diversity of its population whilst feeling aggrieved about the inequality he saw. He also referred to his personal experience as a father and how this had informed his understanding of equality issues and increased his commitment to improve things, this included having a daughter who suffered from a serious mental health condition and another who is gay and now a university teacher.
 
Returning to other values that are important to him, Ron shared his belief in the importance of lifelong and life wide learning - saying he was always happy, even as a professor, to call himself first a foremost a learner. Indeed, he noted, his role as UWE's diversity champion had been a rich learning journey. He said how pleased he was to be supporting Bristol's ambition to be a Learning City as a consultant post his UWE retirement.
 
Ron stressed how much he had enjoyed teaching and believed that you should always strive for improvement given your responsibilities to learners, young or old. He reminded us that 'you don't have to be ill to get better'!
 
He talked about how he had always valued research and scholarship - his own PhD had been through action research; evidence-based and research-informed practice. He had written a number of education books, all including case studies of practice in real settings. Through his teaching and as a teacher educator, he had developed his understanding of the importance to professionals of reflection and reflexivity - being self critical and honest with yourself and recognising how who you are changes what happens around you and how others behave.
 
Later in his career, he had come to appreciate that successful leadership has to be authentic, distributed and person-centred. He stressed that to him 'leadership' was a more important concept than 'leaders' - he believes everyone in an organisation has the potential and should be given opportunities to contribute to leadership capacity.
 
Ron emphasised his belief in the benefits of collaboration and partnership based on various experiences in his career, for example in an advisory teacher team, in the Education Department (as part of the then S Block 'family' of academic and professional support staff) and more recently in the context of the Cabot Learning Federation.
 
He returned to leadership and organisations and said we should, perhaps, recognise more often the importance of people over processes. He said his aim had always been to empower others through reward and positive feedback. In that context, he thanked colleagues who had written in support of his National Diversity Champion nomination last year and said how moving and motivating he had found that public feedback.
 
Ron talked about the importance of significant others in our lives, both professional and personal and thanked those in the room and those unable to be here who had made unique and highly valued contributions to his time at UWE.
 
He concluded by reflecting on UWE's recent E&D successes and ongoing issues that remain work in progress …
 
The successes he celebrated included:
• Our ongoing commitments to activities related to widening participation and partnerships with schools in disadvantaged areas;
• The central and secure place of EDI in the UWE strategy, the successful Single Equality Scheme and senior staff commitment;
• The range and impact of staff and student networks;
• Stonewall Workplace index success;
• Athena SWAN success;
• The developing Disability Service for staff;
• Two Ticks accreditation;
• Time to Change commitment;
• Race Equality Charter Mark application;
• The outstanding contribution of HR and the E&D Unit.
 
Ongoing challenges for UWE that Ron recognised included:
 
• Further improving the diversity of staff;
• Maintaining inclusivity as a strategic goal, which includes promoting its benefits;
• Continue to probe the 'lived experience of staff' to ensure it is positive for all;
• Celebrate successes and promote role models;
• Find smart ways of measuring the impact of EDI work against the UWE Strategic Plan;
• Continue to build leadership capacity for the agenda;
• Foster more joint working (for example with unions and networks) and partnership with other organisations;
• Join things up to ensure efficacy, efficiency and maximising benefits;
• Develop efficient and constructive approaches to equality analysis;
• Ensure EDI doesn't suffer in the context of further inevitable change and uncertainty in the HE sector.
 
Ron finished by thanking colleagues for the support and friendship he had been given. He wished all well in continuing to make UWE the special place that it is and furthering the cause of equality, diversity and inclusivity.

Holocaust Memorial Day

Posted by Vicky Swinerd | 0 Comments
27Jan2015
The following piece is a personal reflection written by Madge Dresser Associate Professor in Social & Cultural British History at UWE Bristol:

Holocaust Fatigue?

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. It was originally established to commemorate the Nazi genocide where 2/3rds of all Jews in Europe were exterminated along with many Poles, Romani, homosexuals, disabled people and political dissidents in the name of racial purity. But today Holocaust Memorial Day also serves to honour the memory of those millions affected by the subsequent genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Darfur. 

The lessons we choose to learn from this day vary according to our contemporary concerns. For me the lessons are two-fold. The first is that all forms of racial, religious and ethnic discrimination can all too easily slide into genocidal violence. Today’s racial bullying can set the scene for tomorrow’s persecution as the travelling exhibition “Anne Frank and me” vividly demonstrates to today’s generation of school children.

The second is that our willingness to remember unpalatable truths is influenced by, and sometimes distorted to serve, contemporary political ends. As the last survivors of the Nazi Holocaust die off, the event itself fades into a more emotionally distanced historical memory and is affected by the present day conflict between Israel and Palestine.  Holocaust denial is rife in the international blogosphere and linked to the escalating violence the Middle East. Outrage over the recent killing by the Israeli Defence Force of civilians in Gaza has led to the widespread equation in the social media  of their deaths with the Nazi genocide. A recent poll this year found that one in eight Britons surveyed believe that Jewish people unduly use the Holocaust as a means of gaining sympathy.

Today is also the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi death camp. Not everyone can visit the vast site at Birkenau as I recently did. It was only when I went there that I began to get any real sense of the sheer scale of the atrocity which had taken place there. Remembering is a complicated business. These anniversaries remind us that we need to preserve the factual integrity of the past in order to do justice to all victims of genocidal violence, past and present.

Updates from Equality Challenge Unit - December 2014

Posted by Yukiko Hosomi | 0 Comments
22Dec2014

The Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) works to support equality and diversity in Higher Education. They produce guidance and resources to promote understanding and best practice.

1. Sign up for the ECU monthly newsletter

You can find out more about the ECU by subscribing to their newsletter: scroll to the bottom of their website and enter your email address.

2. Become a Charter Mark panellist

The ECU is looking for people to help assess applications to both Athena SWAN and the Race Equality Charter Mark. This is an interesting opportunity to further develop your understanding of equalities issues while providing constructive feedback to other Institutions. Panellists will need to read 4-6 applications in advance and attend a panel in London for one day. The ECU pay travel expenses and provide lunch. Online training is provided for panellists. Please visit the ECU website to sign up.

3. Athena SWAN expansion

Athena SWAN is expanding to accept applications from arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law departments from November 2015. The expanded Charter will also use a broader definition of gender, examining support for transgender staff and investigating any areas where there are systemic barriers to male progression.

Looking back over 2014: the Equality and Diversity Unit

Posted by Yukiko Hosomi | 0 Comments
22Dec2014

As the year comes to an end, the Equality and Diversity Unit wants to share some of our reflections over 2014 with you. First of all we want to thank you all who worked with us in making the Inclusive Univesity real for our students and staff in a number of different ways. Without your support and commitment, we couldn't have achieved none of the below listed.

A year in which the University continued to extend its commitment to E&D and inclusivity: 

  • Equality training made mandatory to ensure all have the same baseline of knowledge and awareness
  • New policies released to support this agenda including a Faith and Belief Policy and revised policy on reasonable adjustments
  • No Bystanders campaign
  • Becoming a Time to Change employer
  • Embarking on the Race Equality Charter Mark
  • Conference in July on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion with people from all phases of education from across Bristol
  • Also in July, UWE sponsorship of PRIDE
  • Disability Working Group recommendations taken on board and ongoing plans for a support service for disabled staff
  • Equality Management Group and Equality Diversity Forum ongoing work demonstrate ongoing commitment
  • Work by all of us to embed E&D where we work

Recognition for specific achievement in the E&D arena

  • Stonewall Workplace Index great news
  • Athena Swan achievement of Department of Nursing and Midwifery and Department of Allied Health Professions in November
  • Two Ticks – positive about disability – symbol commitments achieved and beginning to use from 2015

Behavioural/culture change activities        

  • Diversity mentoring exchange
  • Striving to embed E&D principles in training courses as well as offering E&D related courses
  • Supporting International Women’s Day, LGBT History month, Black History Month, and working to make them more visible to all
  • Making the language we use including the term inclusion (from the 2020 Strategy) a core part of what we talk about in all the meetings we attend and briefings we give
  • Welcome Fair  presentation slot and info table
  • Working with Student Union and others on Safe Spaces and hate incident reporting
  • Responding to queries from people (staff and students)