Category Archives: Race and Faith

Discussing religious and racial discrimination issues that continue to be an issue in today’s society, and promoting tolerance and acceptance.

BME Early Career Researchers’ Conference

On Friday 26th April, we funded two of our PGR students to attend the 3rd annual BME Early Career Researchers’ conference at the University of East London. This year’s theme was ‘How to Stay in Academia’.

The conference aims to encourage and empower BME (Black Minority & Ethnic) early career researchers to stay within academia, and promotes the ethos ‘be positive, practical, and pragmatic’ in driving career progression. Speakers included inspirational people such as award-winning writer, academic, and human rights campaigner Professor Gus John, and KCL Dental Institute lecturer and Diversity and Inclusion Champion, Dr Bernadine Idowu-Onibokun.

We chatted to our two PGR students who attended, Aisha Islam and Nana-Jane Chipampe, to find out what they thought of the conference.

What were your impressions of the conference?

Aisha Islam:

The conference was hosted at the University of East London, where I arrived to meet many senior BAME academic staff and PG researchers from multiple disciplines and cities across the UK. The programme began with the delivery of short, inspirational talks from, most notably, Professor Gus John and Dr Bernadine Idowu-Onibokun, both of whom have contributed substantiality and significantly to managing Education and Equity, and Regenerative Medicine in Dentistry, respectively. This was followed by a panel discussion addressing the following topics:

  • The journey of each BAME academic within academia
  • The importance of the visibility of a BAME academic
  • What the barriers and challenges of gaining senior positions for BAME academics are
  • What needs to change

The discussions were supportive, insightful, and inspiring, providing an excellent forum to consider my opportunities for continuous professional development and career growth. The structure of the event was relaxed and informal. I had the opportunity to meet and build connections with brilliant, like-minded BAME researchers who share the same enthusiasm for academia.

Nana-Jane Chipampe:

I was really impressed with the format of the conference. There were short, inspirational talks by various academics, describing their journeys and it was motivational to hear their insightful and inspirational guidance. All speakers gave honest accounts of their personal journeys, which was particularly humbling to hear. There was also workshops that addressed applying to and writing for fellowships, mentoring and sponsorship, fantastic tips and advice on networking, and the importance of wellbeing and maintaining work-life balance. These workshops provided supportive, engaging, and productive advice, all directly relevant to the everyday research environment.

What is the most important take-home message for you as a BAME researcher from this event?

Aisha Islam:

Academia presents several challenges when obtaining external funding, maintaining a publication record, and progressing through your career. The key take-home message I retained from the event was to remain positive, practical, and pragmatic, in order to feel empowered to remain in academia. Undertaking doctoral research and beyond involves a transition of learning styles from the traditional, rote learning style practiced within primary and secondary education, and to some extent during undergraduate education, to a critical and analytical approach, which requires a higher degree of independence. As a PGR or early career researcher (ECR), this can be an intimidating process, given the feedback of progression is often limited and can fuel self-confidence issues and psychological phenomena such as ‘Imposter Syndrome’.

In an environment where self-doubt of abilities and strengths is rife, it is important to consistently celebrate small successes. I met a huge number of BAME researchers determined to stay and excel in academia throughout the course of the conference, which was admirable and motivational.

Nana-Jane Chipampe:

The most important take-home message from this event for me was be POSITIVE, PRACTICAL, and PRAGMATIC. This can be achieved in many ways. By being persistent and pragmatic in my research and overcoming the difficulties I face with a positive mind, I can feel empowered in academia and maximise my ability to achieve my potential.

How has this conference affected your perceptions regarding your own career as a BAME researcher?

Aisha Islam:

My uncertainties regarding remaining in academia were overcome by the opportunity to spend time with senior academics of minority backgrounds who filled an entire lecture auditorium – which was liberating to say the least!

The afternoon workshops, focusing on applications to fellowships, mentoring and sponsorship, and networking and wellbeing, were incredibly informative and affirmed my understanding of these areas, alongside helping to ensure I am maximising my potential as a BAME researcher. The short talks provided evidence for the extraordinary and compelling contributions made by BAME academics across a vast array of disciplines in research and have helped me to transcend my own expectations of academic achievement and success.

Nana-Jane Chipampe:

The conference has made me aware that it is important to have key individuals to facilitate your research journey. Find, develop, and sustain relationships with other researchers, as ‘people need people’. As a researcher, I learnt that it is important to collaborate and network with others, and remember who you are, what your purpose is, and how you want to achieve your goals. I am now more aware of the importance of surrounding yourself around individuals who can encourage and support you through your journey in academia.

Do you think such conferences aimed at BAME ECRs are useful? How do you think you could encourage other BAME ECRs to attend such events?

Aisha Islam:

The multiplicity of academic backgrounds present at the conference ignited meaningful and thought-provoking discussions on tackling issues faced by BAME academics. The event was a unique opportunity to vocalise concerns and negotiate strategies to overcome hurdles and encourage progression, and most importantly, to receive affirmation of my experiences of difficulties associated with being part of a minority in higher education and academia (e.g. disengagement from the curriculum due to a lack of inclusivity, isolation, and micro-aggressions). The attainment gap between white and BAME students remains significant, alongside the disparity in employability between white and BAME graduates.

We were introduced to a relatively new journal, the ‘Journal of Impact Cultures’, which endeavours to transform educational policy and practice through the decolonisation of the curriculum and culture that currently exists in higher education. As the journal challenges debates in teaching and learning through an interdisciplinary approach, it may be of interest to many BAME researchers seeking to create change within education for them to submit their narratives, reflections, and empirical reports.

I would encourage other BAME ECR’s to attend by speaking to their fellow network members for guidance or general discussions about the benefits of such a network. Ultimately, the conference addresses many layers of complexity regarding identities existing amongst BAME academics and allows us to identify areas in which to intervene, in addition to finding solutions, in order to resolve racialised inequalities within higher education.

Nana-Jane Chipampe:

I strongly feel that conferences aimed at BAME ECRs are extremely useful, due to the psychological impact of spending a day among intelligent, encouraging, and dedicated BAME academics. I felt particularly empowered to stay in academia when speakers spoke on the topic being your authentic self and being proud of who you are. A university’s ethos should reflect the diversity of the institution, and conferences such as these remind you of this. I believe research is a key component of knowledge production and knowledge sharing, and events like this encourage you to be confident in doing so.

I would encourage other BAME ECRs to attend such events, as it is refreshing to step away from your niche area of research and explore a different type of learning experience – learning through others. I would encourage BAME ECRs to put themselves in environments where interesting, thought-provoking discussions take place, and the BAME ECR conference provides a platform to receive encouraging and practical tips to put yourself in the best position to succeed.

Thank you so much to Aisha and Nana-Jane for chatting to us about their experiences, and we’re glad you got so much out of attending!

To find out more, read about the conference, or watch the promotional video. Or, if you’re interested in other opportunities available to BME staff and students, check out NU’s BAME Network.

FMS EDI Week Programme: 21st-25th January 2019

FMS is holding its very first Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Week – why not come along and get involved?

We are holding the Faculty’s first EDI Week for our staff and students to celebrate our recent Athena SWAN Silver Award for our work towards gender equality. There will be a range of activities and events that not only reflect on our recent achievement, but consider where we go from here in order to provide more inclusive work and study environments that give everyone equal opportunity to succeed.

Take a look at what is on, and book early! We hope to see you at one of our events!


21st January:

  • Why does EDI matter? – 12-1pm, The Boardroom
    We launch the week by hearing from members of the senior leadership team about why EDI is important to our Faculty and the people who work and study here. Read more and register.
  • EDI and TechNET – 1-2pm, The Boardroom
    Members of our technicians network talk about how EDI is central to the work that they do both in the Faculty and across the University. Read more and register.
  • How to embed EDI in the Professional Pathway? – 2-3pm, The Boardroom
    Our Director of Faculty Operations, Katharine Rogers, will talk about the new professional pathway and how EDI is being embedded into its development. Read more and register.

22nd January:

  • EDI at NUMed Malaysia – 10-11am, Leech L2.9
    Come and meet Chris Baldwin, CEO and Provost at NUMed, to find out more about their approach to EDI in Malaysia. Read more and register.
  • Mindfulness – 12.30-1.30pm, Leech L2.8
    An introductory session led by our very own Michael Atkinson. Read more and register.
  • EDI Bites: What is Athena SWAN? – 12-1pm, The Boardroom
    Our EDI Team explains what Athena SWAN is, what our Silver Award means, and what our plans are for progressing gender equality over the next four years. Read more and register.
  • Athena SWAN: An institutional perspective – 3-4pm, The Boardroom
    Judith Rankin, the Dean of EDI, will talk about the university’s application for a Silver Award renewal, which will be submitted in April. Read more and register.

23rd January:

  • EDI design principles for FMS  – 12-2pm, Colin Ingram Seminar Room (IoN)
    Jane Richards and the Good to Great (G2G) Team hold an interactive session to hear your views about how EDI should guide FMS in the future. Read more and register.
  • Why should we become conscious of our Unconscious Biases? – 2-3pm, Leech L2.2
    Tom Smulders and the IoN EDI Team run an introductory session about unconscious bias and how to combat it. Read more and register.

24th January:

  • EDI Lunchtime Fair – 12-2pm, the Atrium/Entrance to the Medical School
    For staff and postgraduates to find out more about different networks, mentoring schemes, support for wellbeing, and get a chance to speak to EDI representatives. Light bites provided. Please register your interest for catering purposes.
  • Athena SWAN Celebration & Unveiling – 12.45, Entrance to the Medical School
    The Pro-Vice Chancellor of FMS, David Burn, will unveil the Faculty’s Athena SWAN Silver Award to mark the achievement that the award represents.

25th January:

  • ‘For Families’ Launch Event  – 10.30am-12pm, David Shaw Lecture Theatre
    Event jointly hosted by NU Women and NU Parents to launch NU’s new family-friendly initiative, update on its progress, set out plans for the future and take feedback and questions. Read more and register.
  • Friday Fizz and Feedback – 4-5pm, The Atrium
    Join the Faculty EDI team for a glass of celebratory fizz and tell us what you thought of our first EDI Week, or what you’d like to see next year at EDI Week 2020! Bucks fizz and non-alcoholic sparkling provided. Register your interest for catering purposes here.

FMS EDI Week 21st-25th January – save the date!

FMS will be holding its very first EDI Week from the 21st – 25th of January – why not get involved?

The week is firstly to celebrate our successes so far, with the unveiling of our Athena SWAN silver award, which recognises our achievements in promoting and progressing gender equality for all staff and students. However, as well as reflecting how far we have come, we will also be thinking about what we would like to achieve, and will be running a number of events and activities that staff and students can get involved with.

Although we are still confirming some events (final programme to be announced early January), we have some already pencilled in and you can get the times into your diary now!

21st January:

  • Launch Event – 12-1pm,
    “Why does EDI matter?” – hear from staff about why EDI matters to them.
  • EDI and the Professional Pathway – 2-3pm,
    Katherine Rogers, Director of Faculty Operations

22nd January:

  • EDI Bitesize: “What is Athena SWAN?” – 2-3pm
    Candy Rowe, Director of EDI for FMS will explain what Athena SWAN is and what it means for the Faculty.
  • Athena SWAN Silver for Newcastle University – 3-4pm
    Judith Rankin, Dean of Diversity will talk about the work currently going on to renew the University’s institutional Silver Athena SWAN Award.
  • Wellbeing Session – lunchtime (TBC)
    Session hosted by Michael Atkinson on mindfulness.

23rd January:

  • EDI Design Principles for FMS  – 12-2pm
    Jane Richards and the Good to Great (G2G) Team will run a session about embedding EDI into faculty working in the future.

24th January:

  • EDI Fair – 12-2pm
    A fair to showcase information and get a chance to speak to the EDI Team, representatives from different staff/PGR networks, and the ECR Mentoring Scheme.
  • Athena SWAN Celebration & Unveiling – lunchtime (TBC)
    PVC of FMS, David Burn, will unveil the Faculty’s Athena SWAN Silver Award and celebrate the incredible work and achievement the award symbolises.

25th January:

  • ‘For Families’ Launch Event  – 10am – 12pm
    Event jointly hosted by NU Women and NU Parents. It will provide information on NU’s new family-friendly initiative, update on progress, set out plans for the future and take feedback and questions.


MentoringWe’re encouraging everyone in the Faculty to get more involved with mentoring. Would you like a mentor? Or can you be a mentor for a more junior member of staff or a postgraduate student?

We often come to a crossroads where we need to make some decisions about our careers and want to talk it over with someone else. You may just feel like you need a one-off career conversation with someone, or you may be looking for a longer term mentoring relationship. This person might have experience you lack, or just be an independent ear to listen to your situation. This is especially the case for people early in their careers, but can be useful for any of us.

In order to facilitate such conversations, a few years ago, we launched the Early Careers Mentoring Network (ECMN) database. Our database has a long list of people (including our own academics and professional staff, as well as people in other careers outside the University) who are willing to be contacted for a one-off conversation (or more) about their career.  You can search this list on a range of different characteristics which you might be looking for in a potential mentor.

What are the benefits to having a mentor?

One of the benefits to having a mentor is that you can learn a lot from their experience, and get a fresh perspective on your current challenges. You can also get access to support and resources which you may not know about, or get feedback on your career aspirations, which might help you achieve your goals more quickly. And a good mentor can also motivate you and help increase your confidence or self-esteem, enabling you to resolve challenges and move on in the longer term.

If you want to find a mentor and start a conversation, you can do search the database any time:

Why become a mentor?

A successful scheme needs good mentors, who are willing to give something back and support people at an earlier career stage. We are always looking for people to join our mentoring schemes. Mentoring passes on your knowledge and values to the next generation to accelerate their careers, but can also benefit you. The benefits of being a mentor can include: improved confidence, enhanced communication skills (especially listening), a broader view, and an enhanced ability to manage people.

Why not sign up to be a mentor today? Our database is directly linked to similar schemes run by NU Women and the BAME network for their members, so when you sign up as a mentor for our scheme, you can also choose to be a mentor for these schemes too – just tick the relevant boxes once you log in. To sign up (or update your profile if you have on already), please go into the database:

If you have an queries about our Early Careers Mentoring Scheme, please contact Tom Smulders. All other queries to the Faculty EDI Team

Organisational Development also runs the NU Mentoring scheme for all staff. It is currently closed, but will be open its annual call for mentees in January. You can register your interest here.

Meet Vijaya Kotur, our Race Equality Advisor

October is Black History Month in the UK, and like many other institutions, the University is hosting a number of events to recognise the history, experiences and accomplishments of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, and to promote race equality more broadly. In this post, we talk to Vijaya Kotur, our University Race Equality Advisor, about her work and what staff and students can get involved with this month.

Can you tell us a little bit about your role?  

My key responsibility is to work with everyone from across the University to support the organisation’s commitment to race equality. That means that I work with Professional Services and Academic staff, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate students. Based on the data and evidence available I’ll be ensuring that race equality is implemented in the University’s culture, policies and operations by measuring equality impact of race alongside other protected characteristics.

Our University has reached a lot through promoting and achieving various Athena SWAN awards. However, there are still inequities in areas, where people from diverse backgrounds have not reached their full potential or benefited equitably from the opportunities our University provides. Hence, my role will involve working with you all to raise awareness, challenging relevant issues and promoting the need to move away from the deficit model of race equality that has been around for generations.

What might an average day look like for you? 

Each day is different and that’s what makes my job so interesting. I have to read a lot to keep myself abreast of any relevant changes in legislation and whatever is new out there. As the only person in this role, I get to meet interesting people from all over the University. I enjoy meeting with students as their enthusiasm is contagious and gives me more inspiration to work on race and equality matters.

An average day is: having a few meetings; acting on actions from meetings attended; writing up certain process or guidance that needs to be addressed; and researching new ideas that can be used to raise awareness on race equality within our University. But on some days, I might be running around like a headless chicken whilst responding to the demands of my day-to-day responsibilities!

What events have been organised around the University for Black History Month, and is there one that you are particularly looking forward to? 

‘Black History Month’ means different things to everyone and pride for this month is expressed in a variety of different ways. For many, ‘Black History Month’ is a way of reflecting on the diverse histories of those from African and Caribbean descent, taking note of the achievements and contributions to the social, political, economic and cultural development of the UK. There are many events planned in and around the University by and for both staff and students, including:

I am looking forward to promoting ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ as it will mark a commitment from our University that we stand against Racism in all its forms, and that we respect, celebrate and cherish our diverse communities represented within our University.

You’re running some Race Equality Awareness Workshops this month and early next year, can you tell us more about those? 

These workshops are designed to support staff to strengthen their understanding of race equality and highlight the skills required for effective culture change. It introduces participants to key concepts within the field of race equality with the aim of improving knowledge and understanding about race and racism within a safe and reflective space.

These sessions should make an individual aware of what contributes to racial inequalities, their own privileges and how to challenge certain behaviours like micro-aggression, which knowingly or unknowingly happen all the time around us at the workplace. I am hoping that the sessions will enable staff to begin engaging with conversations on race equality much more freely.

What do you see as some of the major challenges in the HE sector around race equality

The biggest challenge I find is that people within the HE sector find it very uncomfortable to talk about race. Any change takes time. We need resources to implement race equality in such a diverse and complex institution. We also need to ensure that the work life experiences of all staff are fulfilling, and students’ experiences at University will be measured by their attainment level by ethnicity.

Diversifying the curriculum will also be a major part of promoting race equality within HE, and that will be quite challenging. However, there are some fantastic people within our University who are committed, and with their backing I am positive that these challenges will become a bit easier.

Some universities holds Race Equality Charter awards for their work towards race equality, is Newcastle University aiming for this type of award? 

Newcastle University is also working towards applying to be a member of Advance HE’s Race Equality Charter. Once we become a member, we are committed to applying to get a Bronze Award within three years. So we all need to start cracking on our work on Race Equality!

Looking for something to read for #BHM2018?

If our staff and students wanted to learn more about black history or race equality in the UK, is there anything that you would recommend they read? 

One of the best books I would recommend for everyone to read is: ‘Why I’m no longer talking to white people about Race’ by Reni Eddo-Lodge. It’s an easy-read and relevant to the UK.

For any queries about the Race Equality Charter or the University’s work towards race equality, contact Vijaya.