RCSI advances race equality in new action plan

  • General news

An action plan aimed at advancing race equality and tackling racism has been published by RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences.

As one of the country's most internationally diverse universities, RCSI's Race Equality Action Plan reinforces its commitment to ensuring that the experience of its students, trainees and staff is defined by respect, equality and inclusion.

RCSI is the first higher education institution in Ireland to publish a race equality action plan, which outlines the steps the university will take to improve the representation, progression and success of students, trainees and staff from minoritised groups at RCSI.

Developed by RCSI students and staff, with external advice from Pavee Point – the charity giving a voice to the Traveller and Roma community – the plan identifies a comprehensive list of actions that are being implemented, and involves listening to and learning from the lived experiences of students and staff.

The action plan reflects a number of key recommendations highlighted in last month's HEA Report on Race Equality. This includes the introduction of the Speak Out Tool which allows both staff and students to report incidence of racism, harassment or discrimination of any kind, through a new national online system and signposting to areas of support.

Other actions identified in the three-year plan include a review of the healthcare curriculum to ensure greater representation of people of colour in teaching materials. This includes developing imagery of various illnesses which can present differently, according to skin tone, and also greater diversity in the simulated patients that healthcare students experience in their training.

Professor Cathal Kelly, Vice-Chancellor of RCSI, explains: "Over the past year, we in higher education have been challenged to examine if we are doing enough to progress race equality and to speak out against racism in all its forms. This plan allows us to reaffirm our rejection of racism as fundamentally wrong and totally inconsistent with RCSI's mission and values.

"We take great pride in the diversity of our student community at RCSI, and so it is right that we should be taking very meaningful and practical steps to ensure this diversity is celebrated and protected. And as a healthcare university, we have to examine our own teaching methods and academic practice to ensure it is reflective of the diverse range of patients that our students and staff will encounter to provide a truly international curriculum."

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, Simon Harris TD, has welcomed the publication of this action plan. He said: "As educators of future healthcare professionals, it is fitting that RCSI is showing such leadership by underlining its commitment to race equality through this action plan. I want to commend the students and staff at RCSI who have developed this plan, providing a roadmap which other institutions might follow."

The work of the Race Equality Action Plan complements the university's existing International Citizenship Programme which it runs annually to encourage students to reflect on and develop the skills, values and attitudes they will need to work effectively in a culturally diverse healthcare environment. This month, RCSI recognized 53 students for successfully completing the programme, which involved them in community-based projects around the world.

Emeka Okereke, Chair of the RCSI Race Equality Forum, said: "Working to promote race equality and to address discrimination, including micro-aggressions and unconscious bias, is a key priority for the university. By making sure that our future healthcare leaders are culturally competent, socially conscious and have a sense of civic responsibility, we hope to contribute to a more inclusive and fair society. Endorsement and support of the Race Equality Action Plan by our Council further highlights the importance that RCSI places on ensuring that a culture of race equality is embedded across everything that we do."

The university marked the publication of the action plan at a virtual event which featured international race equality experts as well as student representatives who shared their experiences of embedding race equality in higher education.

RCSI is a signatory of the UN Sustainable Development Goals Accord and is ranked joint second in the world for its contribution to UN Sustainable Development Goal 3 in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2021.

It is also ranked in the top 50 in the world for 'International Outlook' by Times Higher Education in recognition of its diverse student and staff communities working across five international campuses. The global RCSI community is made up of 26,000 alumni in 94 countries and 9,600 Fellows and Members across 83 countries.

Download the RCSI Race Equality Action Plan from the RCSI website. 

The RCSI Race Equality Action Plan is underpinned by the university’s institutional commitment to EDI, which is a pillar of the RCSI Strategic Plan 2018–2022.

The RCSI Race Equality Action Plan commits the university to:

  • Supporting the launch of the national Speak Out Tool Project, creating an online space for students and staff to safely disclose and report any misconduct they experience.
  • Collecting data through annual consultation with staff and students.
  • Diversifying the RCSI community and taking direct action to attract and promote diverse talent in terms of faculty, staff, students and alumni.
  • Publicly committing to tackling racial discrimination and foster a campus wide culture in which all members in which all members of the University community are able to participate and fulfil their potential regardless of ethnicity or race.
  • Reviewing current policies and procedures and developing new institution-wide strategies for tackling racial harassment, inequality & discrimination.
  • Addressing the underrepresentation of patients from minoritised ethnic communities and clinical case studies in healthcare curriculum, a new teaching tool for students will incorporate content related to cases, images, diagnostics and risk factors reflective of patient diversity.
  • Developing training content on the history of racism in healthcare, implicit bias, communications skills and cultural humility.
  • Providing race equality and anti-racism training for all students and staff.