Race and Ethnicity

Race is a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010. The definition of race includes colour, and nationality (including citizenship) ethnic or national origins.

Although race discrimination is unlawful, black* communities continue to face barriers in education and employment. For example, black students are less likely to receive a first class degree in comparison to their white peers.

Research by the Department for Work and Pensions in 2009 highlighted that an applicant who appeared to be white because of their name, would send 9 applications before receiving a positive response of either an invitation to an interview or positive telephone call. However, British people from an ethnic minority background with names that sounded African or Muslim with the same qualifications and experience had to send 16 applications before receiving a similar response. 

The Race for Opportunity research ‘Race to Progress: Breaking down Barriers’ showed that despite high levels of ambition and motivation black workers face barriers in career progression, as they enjoy fewer promotions than their white counterparts.

The lack of ethnic diversity in the students’ union’s workforce is low at every staff level and requires attention. Only 8 per cent of non-student and student staff and 16 per cent of officers were black* in the 2011-2012 Diversity Survey. Of the 48 general managers/ CEOs who completed the survey 8 per cent were black, while 4 per cent of senior managers identified as black.

What NUS is doing to promote race equality

  • Pro-actively challenging all forms of racism including Islamophobia and anti-Semitism on campuses.
  • Leading successful campaigns to combat attacks on the rights to cultural and religious freedoms - most notably the attempts to ban the veil.
  •  Upholding our 'no platform for fascists' policy, making sure that Black students and all those at risk of the far-right are safe on their campuses.
  • Supporting students' unions in holding anti-racism events on campus.
  • Providing resources and support in celebrating Black History Month on campus, including posters, videos and hosting joint events.
  • Upholding our campaigning for increased Black representation in the student movement, making big strides forward as evidenced by the Officer Diversity Survey 2011-12 showing the student movement is becoming more representative of Black students.
  • Working with MPs, race equality groups and education institutions to challenge the attainment gap, furthering our work on NUS' acclaimed 'Race for Equality' report and making progress on implementing the recommendations.
  • Highlighting the injustices faced by international students, the majority who are Black and leading campaigns against policies that discriminate against these students.
  • Maintaining positive relations with national student organisations that represent significant numbers of Black students, for example the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS).

*NUS uses the term ‘black’ as an inclusive term for those from African, Arab, Asian and Caribbean communities.


Black International Students Understanding the issues

This NUS briefing highlights the issues Black International students face, including the immigration system and issues of hate crime.


Black History Month - The National Guide to Black History Month Listings, which is a partnership of local, regional and national organisations. The Site provides a range of information and resources to help celebrate Black History Month (October).  

Black Students and Mental Health

This NUS Black Students’ Campaign briefing is designed to give a sense of what Black students with mental health difficulties may experience and the key barriers that can prevent them from getting the support they need.

Experiences of black and minority ethnic staff in HE in England

This Equality Challenge Unit research report highlights the experiences of UK national black people working in higher education in England, in academic, professional and support roles.

Friends, Families and Travellers

The organisation works  to end racism and protect people’s rights to a nomadic way of life through providing a range of advice and information, including ideas for Gypsy Traveller Roma History Month (June).

Improving the degree attainment of black and minority ethnic students

A joint Higher Education Academy and Equality Challenge Unit commentary on supporting black students to achieve better degrees.

Institute for Race Relations (IRR)

Carries out research and analysis on social justice and publishes and collects resources on race relations throughout Britain, Europe and the world.

Language Line

A 24/7 interpreter and translation service via telephone.

Network for Black and Asian Professionals (NBAP)

The NBP works to promote the benefits of ethnic and cultural diversity in the workplace and is committed to supporting black professionals to achieve their full career and civic potential. The NBP is not solely for black staff and works with all staff in organisations, through providing practical and effective solutions to address equality and diversity issues in the workplace.

Operation Black Vote (OBV) 

OBV works on greater racial justice and equality throughout the UK, primarily through the democratic and civic framework. OBV undertakes work in a range of areas: political education, political participation (this includes local and national voter registration campaigns), political representation and the promotion of equality and human rights.

Race equality guidance 

The Equality and Human Rights Commission provides a range of guidance to support race equality and tackle race discrimination, on areas such as: Your rights - what is race discrimination and the protections from it? Race discrimination in different settings, when race discrimination is lawful? And guidance for employers on how to tackle discrimination and promote equality.

Race for Equality: A report on the experiences of Black students in further and higher education (2011)

This report focuses on Black students’ educational experiences, including access, teaching and learning, and the institutional environment. It also includes an exploration of how these experiences may be different for home and international Black students.

Race for Opportunity 

Race for Opportunity is a part of Business in the Community and aims to improve employment opportunities for ethnic minorities across the UK. The organisation carries out employment research, produces good practice case studies and resources to help organisations improve their ethnic diversity.

Race Matters, A report on the experience of Black staff in the student movement

An NUS report exploring the barriers and experiences of Black staff in students’ unions

Race On The Agenda (ROTA) 

A charity collating evidence from black communities to carry out research, inform policy, campaigning and partnership work to improve equality.

Runnymede Trust

Runnymede is the UK’s leading independent race equality think tank and undertakes a range of activities to improve race equality such as: research, network building, events, leading debate, developing resources and policy engagement. As part of its Generation 3.0 project, Runnymede has published a learning resource focusing on how to end racism in a generation. It explores the attitudes of older and younger people towards race and racism, and features exercises and activities linked to a series of short films.