The road to ‘Race Matters’

Monday 05-12-2016 - 12:00

Today, our Race Matters programme of work was launched by Malia Bouattia and Aadam Muuse. This is a landmark six-year project for NUS, and the first of its kind with a clear focus on career progression for Black staff in the student movement. Here’s how we got here, and the journey ahead…

Initial research

The Race Matters journey began in January 2014 when we carried out the first ever survey exploring the views and experiences of Black* staff in the student movement.

The research project was initiated after all NUS diversity surveys from 2005 to 2012 highlighted the lack of ethnic diversity at every level in the workforce of students’ unions.

Our milestone ‘Race Matters’ report

The following year, we launched ‘Race Matters, A report the experiences of Black staff in the student movement’. This report provided an invaluable insight into the current landscape for Black staff, and highlighted:

  • Black staff are committed to and enthusiastic about working in the movement;
  • 18 per cent of Black staff have experienced racism at their union;
  • Only half of respondents thought their union had taken action to consider the needs of Black staff;
  • There is a lack of career progression/development for Black staff;
  • No respondents could cite a single example of good practice around race equality focused on staff at their union;
  • A key element to improve Black staff representation will be to increase the number of Black student officers.

Since the report has been published, a range of activities have been delivered to implement the recommendations to address the structural barriers to race equality, such as:

  • Race Matters workshops; 
  • Black Leaders Conference;
  • Race Matters Advisory Group established;
  • Race Matters Summit;
  • Career development training for Black staff;
  • Black Staff Network established;
  • Inclusive recruitment guide created.


If the student movement is going to create the desired change and undertake a programme of work to address the findings in Race Matters, action is required. This was recognised in NUS’ Strategic framework NUS100, which launched earlier this year.

One of the eight key strands in NUS’ six year strategy focuses on ‘attracting and retaining outstanding people’, which acknowledges that much more needs to be done to create a diverse movement, especially in regards to Black staff representation.

Race Matters programme of work

The Race Matters programme of work is about how we deliver this element of NUS100 and address the lack of ethnic diversity over the next six years, to create a movement that attracts and retains outstanding people.

The Race Matters programme of work for 2016-2022 set’s a clear vision on what the student movement, including NUS, needs to do to address race inequality and the current lack of Black staff representation and progression in the student movement. This vision is based on five outcomes:

  1. Leadership
  2. Employer brand and inclusive recruitment
  3. Organisational culture and practice
  4. Career development opportunities for Black staff and officers
  5. Engaging Black Students

It is an ambitious programme of work which aims to be the catalyst for change in address race inequality in the movement.

It has been informed by the Race Matters recommendations, NUS’ Strategic Framework NUS100 and feedback from the Race Matters Advisory Group (made up of Black chief executives and deputy directors), Black sabbatical officers and delegates at the Race Matters Summit.  

'We would like to thank Mandeep for dedicating her time and expertise to the development of this really important work. We are very pleased to see the prominence that this agenda has within NUS' overall strategy as we believe that, as a movement, we should be at the vanguard of change both politically but also in our practice and organisational behaviours. This programme of work sets out a clear vision and practical solutions to addressing the pressing issue of racism in the movement.’ – Race Matters Advisory Group

The programme of work also incorporates the proposed activities for NUS’ Employer Brand and Learning Academy work, which is a part of the NUS100 strategy to attract and retain outstanding talent.

For more information about our Race Matters programme of work, contact NUS Equality & Diversity Consultant Mandeep Rupra-Daine.


Black, Features, NUS100

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