The Inclusive University

UWE support for the Zero Tolerance campaign

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This article is taken from the Zero Tolerance campaign website and was originally published in April 2016 prior to the Bristol mayoral election:

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have been involved in Bristol Zero Tolerance from the beginning and are championing the issue of addressing gender-based violence in Bristol with the University of Bristol and others.

We spoke to Professor Jane Harrington, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, to find out what has been implemented and what they are planning for the future:

 Professor Harrington, the Bristol Zero Tolerance initiative was needed because of the attitudes that she saw in students regarding gender-based violence: "I have been shocked by attitudes of students across the sector and was concerned that we had a specific policy to deal with this issue at UWE Bristol… In particular I have an interest in seeing that female students and staff have a safe working environment and that there are policies in place to ensure this. We obviously have a focus on students because this is a large issue, particularly around alcohol-related sexual violence and harassment. But it also translates to staff and it is important that staff also have a safe environment. Their home life can impact on the workplace, there is also the relationship of staff to students which needs to be appropriate, and it is also student to student. So we want to work on all of these aspects."

Professor Harrington is the Senior Lead for Gender at UWE and a member of the Bristol Women’s Commission and it was through this role that she was involved in setting up Bristol Zero Tolerance. "We felt it was the most pressing problem in the city and that we shouldn’t ignore it but should take a stance and not just sign the pledge but take actions, and this was an impetus for us to take action at UWE Bristol… I was the Chair of the Transport Sub-Group on the Women’s Commission and the biggest issue with transport is safety, likewise with housing, safety is a huge issue. So it impacts on so many areas. When we look at the percentage of sexual violence and domestic violence in society, it just has to be one of our main priorities, safety has to be a priority, because if we confront that and use it as a baseline then we can tackle the other issues of inequality against women and others."

‘Safety has to be a priority, because if we confront that and use it as a baseline then we can tackle the other issues of inequality against women and others.’ – Professor Harrington

For UWE Bristol, being involved in Bristol Zero Tolerance was important, as gender-based violence was an increasing concern and it was a priority to ensure the right response for students. For Professor Harrington it also "means that we can push in the direction that we were already going more quickly. It sends out a clear public message to students and staff about our values and the actions that we will take if they are not carried out."

UWE Bristol have also joined proactively with the University of Bristol and both student unions as well as with other agencies, such as the Police and Bristol Zero Tolerance, to create the Forum Against Sexual Violence and Harassment, which is a great example of joint working to create change on this issue. The Staff unions are also supportive and they are hoping to work with them further on this issue.

Externally, through the Intervention Initiative, they hope to help other universities and further education colleges implement this preventative work to tackle the problems of gender-based violence before they occur. As Professor Harrington notes, "if we can stop sexual violence before it happens, it is better than dealing with the consequences."

"If we can stop sexual violence before it happens, it is better than dealing with the consequences." – Professor Harrington

For Professor Harrington, a Zero Tolerance City would mean "that all aspects of sexual violence and harassment are tackled appropriately and people are empowered to take appropriate action and are confident that this action will be supported by the relevant bodies in the city, such as the Police, the universities and other services like The Bridge… I also want women to feel confident that if gender-based violence occurs or they are in fear of it occurring, that there is a place that they can seek help and be confident of this… My vision is that the percentage of domestic violence and sexual violence is diminished dramatically from where it is now and that this is not seen as a daily occurrence – that it rarely happens and is dealt with when it does… I want Bristol to feel a safer city to be a woman in."

She also has a message for the city leaders in Bristol: "I hope that whoever the elected mayor is after May 2016 that they commit to supporting this initiative and I hope that they see gender-based violence as unacceptable and want to address it, as well as recognising that this doesn’t happen without commitment
and funding!

We can’t disagree with that!











We need to double number of young engineering students

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Catherine Hobbs, Head of Engineering, Design and Mathematics at UWE Bristol, reflecting on the latest report from Engineering UK.

Engineering is important to the nation, and we need more engineers. This message is certainly getting across loud and clear, from Government, from employers and from the professional bodies.

But what is the effect on the South West regional economy and where should effort be concentrated to address the need for more engineers? The latest Engineering UK report, launched on 10 February 2016, contains a wealth of data on the contribution of engineering to the economy and on the needs of employers.

For the first time, the data is broken down by region so we can see exactly how the South West is affected. The report tells us that over 27 per cent of the UK’s GDP comes from engineering and that this contribution is growing. In the South West alone almost 55,000 engineering-related enterprises were registered last year – up nearly 5 per cent on the previous year.
The annual turnover of engineering industry in 2014 in the South West was almost £78 billion, a growth of 11 per cent on 2013. However we are facing some severe skill shortages that will stifle further growth unless addressed now. It takes at least three years to produce a graduate engineer, and longer if you take on board that we need to start with children as young as 11 if we are to motivate them to consider an engineering career.

The evidence is that the 11-14 age group is critical and the Engineering UK report calls for employers to provide more high quality work experience and support for schools in the region to inspire this age group. More than 16,000 engineers will be required in the South West by 2022 which will mean doubling the number of young people doing engineering degrees and apprenticeships (including degree apprenticeships) over the next six years.

This is a possibility. At UWE Bristol we have doubled the number of engineering graduates over the past four years with very strong graduate employment outcomes (82 per cent of whom are in graduate employment at 6 months after graduation, and virtually 100 per cent of them employed at 3.5 years).

We have done this through stimulating demand with exciting outreach such as our involvement with Bloodhound SSC, and collaborative work with employers to develop and contribute to programmes that match their needs. The first degree apprentices from our innovative programme with Airbus, delivered jointly by UWE and City of Bristol College, rolled off the production line in November 2015 and will be followed by many more from a range of engineering employers.

Of course another aspect highlighted in the Engineering UK Report and acknowledged by Government, industry and education is that if we want to grow the number of graduates and apprentices we need to ensure that the whole population is represented. The under-representation of girls in engineering is not a new issue, but organisations like Tomorrow’s Engineers, who put on the Big Bang and Big Bang Near You shows, are starting to make a real difference to the perceptions of girls and their important influencers – parents and teachers – about engineering as an exciting and rewarding career for all.

This opinion piece appeared in the Bristol Post on 13 April 2016.



Gender Equality in STEM subjects

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Please see this interesting article, forwarded to the E&D Unit by John Albarran, the departmental lead for Athena SWAN (gender equality charter) from Nursing and Midwifery, based at Glenside.


Adjacent Government – Feb 2016

Profile: Women’s careers in STEM – What does it take?


Elena Makarova, Professor at the Centre for Teacher Education and at the Department of Education at the University of Vienna, outlines the obstacles young women have to overcome if they aspire to a career in the STEM fields, and how teachers can support their gender atypical career choice.

Makarova and her colleagues in Switzerland have conducted extensive research on the gender-atypical career choices of young women in secondary schools. The study “Gender-atypical career choice of young women” was funded by the Swiss National Research Foundation and was a part of the Swiss National Research Program (NRP60) on Gender Equality.

Makarova says: “Young women who aspire to a STEM career have to overcome a variety of hurdles and conquer gender stereotypes on their way to becoming a professional in a male dominated career field”. She further explains, what makes it difficult for young women to pursue a gender atypical career in Switzerland.

Perception of science as a male domain

Secondary school students not only have a stereotypical perception of both genders and personality traits associated with women and men, but also a gender stereotypical image of science. In the perception of female students women are labelled as being soft, dreamy, lenient or frail, whereas mathematics and physics are seen as being hard, sober, strict or robust. Thus, young women are strongly challenged in relating the masculine image of science to the self. This image of science not only endangers young women’s identification with this academic domain but in the long term also negatively affects young women’s interest in science, their academic self-concept in the science subjects and lastly their decision to choose a career in science-related fields.

Gender stereotypes in the science textbooks

In our study we analysed the textbooks for mathematics, physics and chemistry in secondary schools with respect to the numerical representation of female and male characters in the text and illustrations as well as the context in which both gender appear. It was obvious that male protagonists and the everyday experience of male students vastly dominated the representation of gender in the science textbooks. Moreover, persons of female and male gender were presented in highly stereotyped roles and activities. It can be assumed that the textbooks are less likely to appeal to young women and to encourage them to pursue science. Thus, issues of gender mainstreaming should be given more consideration by textbook editors and authorities who approve these teaching materials.

Prejudice towards women in STEM careers

Young women apprentices learning a STEM profession are at risk of experiencing discrimination during their vocational education and training. In order to adjust to a male dominated career field and to combat prejudice in the work place, young women need to outperform their male co-workers and need to be resilient towards gender stereotypical beliefs and attributes in the work place, or to assimilate within the gender atypical career field. Thus, training companies which provide apprenticeship programs in STEM fields should be strongly challenged to combat sexism and gender discrimination in order to create an inclusive working environment for young women in gender-atypical careers.

Makarova highlights further, that teachers can support young women’s interests in science and their career choice in STEM.

Fostering students’ motivation in science classes

As shown in our study, students’ learning motivation in science classes can be increased through the connection of science to different everyday experiences of female and male students, through providing individual instructional support for students, by using gender-neutral language, by giving information about STEM professions and by encouraging and supporting female students’ interests in STEM careers. Thus, science teachers can increase female and male students’ willingness to choose a career in science related occupational fields through conducting gender inclusive science classes.

A need for professional role models

Role models and mentors are highly important in the process of professional orientation and especially for the gender-atypical career choices of young women. A young woman who has chosen a career in the STEM fields highlighted the impact of male or female professional role models on their gender-atypical career choice. Consequently, parents, siblings, teachers and peers – regardless of gender – can function as a role model or a mentor by inspiring, supporting, encouraging and accompanying young women who opt for a career in the STEM fields.

A way to go

Gender segregation in career fields typically chosen by women or men constitutes a serious obstacle to gender equality. In this endeavour instructional design of science classes which increase students’ learning motivation emerges as a promising means to gaining more women and men for STEM occupations. In this endeavour teachers play a crucial role in helping students to overcome gender stereotypical beliefs and make their life choices independently of their gender.


Prof. Dr. Makarova Elena

University of Vienna, Centre for Teacher Education/Department of Education

Tel: +43 664 60277 60030

Female scientists at Bristol Bright Night

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Contributed by Dee Smart, Co-ordinator Public and Community Engagement

As I am writing this we are at the height of preparations for Bristol Bright Night, a large showcase of research that is happening in the city. Bristol Bright Night is collaboration between Bristol Natural History Consortium, University of Bristol and University of West of England. It is part of European Researchers’ Night, an EU initiative giving the public the chance to meet researchers and find out about their latest discoveries in more than 300 cities. Bristol is only one of 6 UK cities selected to run an event in 2015, and has received funding from the European Commission under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions.  Such events are really great for raising the profile of our university and individual staff or research areas, but also for inspiring young people to consider careers in areas they may not consider otherwise. We see a lot of parents, as well as specialists, who are very interested in speaking to our academics in an informal setting and some of those conversations lead to new collaborations or open up other opportunities.

We are particularly pleased to promote women scientists through such events, and contribute to delivering the Athena SWAN principles in practice.  Here are a couple of examples of researcher spotlights featuring Liz Anderson, Jo Barnes and Corra Boushel.  Do come and visit other research stalls featuring Vyv Salisbury’s Bioluminescent Bacteria, find out from Jess Hoare about the design industry in the South West, or have a go at building a bridge with Adrienn Tomor.

The event on Friday promises to be very vibrant. There will be a great variety of research on show and the programme includes a Researchers’ Fair with over 20 stalls, short talks, interactive demos and debates, film and video installations, and multi-sensory shows in the Planetarium.  Science cocktails, stand-up comedy and a pop-up street theatre inspired by scientific research will also feature in the event.  We are delighted to work with fantastic partner venues, such as At-Bristol Science Centre, Watershed and Bristol Green Capital Lab Space, who will be hosting over 70 individual activities.  We will be welcoming school visits in the morning,  while the evening evens will be open to the general public and family audiences. At-Bristol is opening its doors free of charge after 6pm, so please bring your friends and family. 

If you would like to tweet about the event please use @BrisBrightNight #BristolBrightNight #ERN. Join and share the Facebook event.

The full programme is available here. Please note, although all activities are free, some must be booked in advance via the website. We hope you will be able to join this Friday coming, 6 – 10 pm, at At-Bristol Science Centre.

Ron Ritchie: his thoughts on leaving UWE

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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.

Jackie Longworth to be awarded Honorary Degree

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UWE Bristol will award the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Business Administration to Jackie Longworth in recognition of her contribution to gender equality, both locally and nationally.

The Honorary Degree will be conferred at the Awards Ceremony of the Faculty of Business and Law on Thursday 16 July 2015 at Bristol Cathedral.

Jackie chairs the regional women's equality network, Fair Play South West, which identifies the issues, policies and practices needed to improve women's equality and campaigns for their adoption. She is also a member of the SWTUC Women's Committee, which she has chaired in the past, and is currently a Vice-President of the Women's Engineering Society, having served as President in the past. These voluntary activities largely fill her time since she retired from the electricity industry in 2001.

Jackie graduated from the University of Bristol with a BSc (Hons) degree in physics and joined what was then the Central Electricity Generating Board in 1967. She worked for 34 years in nuclear plant safety: as a Research Officer at the Berkeley Nuclear Laboratories; as a nuclear safety engineer Group Leader; as a Manager of the Health, Safety and Environment Branch; and as Manager of an organisational change project to ensure that nuclear safety was fully considered in staff reductions. She worked continuously for one company as it changed its name and structure through Nuclear Electric to British Energy; it is now EDF.

Throughout this period, Jackie was an active member and representative of her Trade Union, then the Engineers' and Managers' Association, becoming its President in 1994. She was the first women delegate to the Union's annual conference, the first woman on its national executive and its first woman president. She was active in negotiations as the industry was split up and privatised and went through massive redundancy programmes. She was awarded an MBE for services to engineering management in 1996.

When she became a manager she represented her Union (now merged to become Prospect) at the SWTUC, serving on the Regional Executive, a role which she continued after her retirement. She represented the TUC as a social partner at the SW Regional Assembly, becoming the first woman chair of any regional assembly.

Jackie witnessed culture changes towards women engineers both within the Union and at work, but was disappointed that after 34 years women were still not equal in numbers, nor were they fully accepted as equally competent by male colleagues. In each new job and promotion she felt she was having to prove herself over again. Her experiences, and those of her fellows in the Women's Engineering Society, developed her passion for women's equality and made her a feminist.

Gender Equality in Local Government: Chasing the Dream

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Contributed by Margaret Page, Senior Lecturer in FBL and member of the UWE Women's Forum:

On March 4th, Margaret Page (UWE, FBL) and Hazel Conley (QMUL) launched their new book “Gender Equality in Local Government: Chasing the Dream’ at the Unison HQ in London.

The date and venue were significant - March 8th is International Women’s Day and marks the first demonstration of women trade unionists in New York in 1908 and has been celebrated by feminist activists ever since that date. The venue is on the site of the Elizabeth Garret Anderson Hospital, founded by the first women doctor who pioneered free medical care for women before the NHS was founded.

The launch was funded by Queen Mary University and attended by women who promote gender equality internationally and in UK local government and public services in a variety of activist and researcher roles - trade unionists, equality expert advisors, elected politicians and local government policy officers, journalists and of course academic researchers. The book pulls together activism and research on women’s equality that Margaret and Hazel have carried out over the last two decades - in local government, public services, HE, and trade unions.

By popular demand, Margaret and Hazel are organising a SW regional event in Bristol on September 18th sponsored by CESR and BLC research centres at UWE. Watch this space!

Shared Parental Leave

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Contributed by Gerry Scott, OD Adviser, HR:

The new shared parental leave legislation, which applies to couples with babies due, or children being adopted on or after 5 April 2015,  has the potential to revolutionise the way working parents share childcare in the future. It is hoped that the change will enable more partners to have a greater role in their children's upbringing, in particular, during that first year.

With the new arrangements,  after an initial two weeks of leave for the mother following birth, up to 50 weeks of leave and 37 weeks of pay can be shared between the child’s parents. The couple can divide the time between them in a flexible way that suits them; which may involve taking time off concurrently or consecutively. Employees keen to take advantage of this option should discuss with their manager their intentions and they will be required to provide at least eight weeks' notice of any leave period.

UWE guidelines on shared parental leave have been developed and new application forms as well as some examples of how the shared leave might work in practice are also available on the website. If you are thinking of taking a period of shared parental leave, you should speak with your manager as soon as you are able to. Also, you may wish to speak to HR at an early stage, given that these changes are new and wide ranging. You can call the HR Helpline on 85111 or 0117 32 85111.

A day in the life of.... the Equality and Diversity Forum

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A well-attended Equality and Diversity Forum (‘EDF’) took place yesterday. As UWE’s diversity champion, I chaired this in the absence of Vice Chancellor Steve West, who is the usual chair.

For those who might not be familiar with it, the Forum comprises student representatives, staff members from the diverse staff networks, trade unions’ equality representatives and key managers. We meet quarterly to discuss E&D related matters that are relevant to all these stakeholder and their constituencies.

Yesterday, the Forum was updated on lots of valuable markers of our collective progress towards the University’s inclusivity goal. These included:

• UWE’s success with Stonewall on LGB equality, where we ranked 11th this year in the Top 100 Employers’ Workplace Index and top university;
• A positive visit and assessment regarding our attempt to gain Two Ticks (positive about disabled people) accreditation;
• Progress in our pursuit in 2016 of the Race Equality Charter Mark; and
• The identification of a number of senior colleagues as diversity champions supporting specific protected characteristics (more news on this in a later blog).

Staff and student reps shared issues that they were facing, including ongoing issues for staff of time to commit to staff networks, support for these networks from the E&D unit, given its current work plan, and issues linked to the promotion of the compulsory ‘E&D Essentials’ online learning module.

Scarlett Oliver, UWESU’s VP for Comms and Welfare, updated the meeting on SU developments, especially the important anti-abuse campaign.

The meeting had a fascinating and informative input from a team from FBL working on the new building and related E&D issues. There was then a small group discussion led by Scarlett and  Nicky Bolt and Sue McKay, from the Student Disability Service, about changes to the disabled student allowance and hardship funds.

We then heard from Shona Flanagan, a hearing-impaired third year fine art student based at Bower Ashton, who shared her personal experiences as a UWE student. This was powerful testimony and helped us all understand the challenges faced by Shona and others like her. Shona is the president of the National Deaf Students’ Association and is a great role model and champion for others.

Finally the Forum heard about upcoming E&D events at UWE and the local area. To find details, go to the UWE website, then to ‘News and Events’ > ‘What’s On’ and follow the link to ‘Events by Category’  and then select ‘Equality and Diversity’.

I would like to thank all who attended EDF for their ongoing commitment to the University’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion agenda.

Professor Ron Ritchie
Pro Vice-Chancellor
Partnerships, Diversity and Civic Engagement


Holocaust Memorial Day

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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.