Anti-Racism Commitment

The School of Geography and the Environment (SoGE) is opposed to racism in all its forms, and we are actively working to increase the diversity and inclusivity of our practices and the diversity of our people. We are aware of the often shameful role that the discipline of Geography has played in imperial and colonial projects; of the need to further decolonise our curricula; and of the need to reiterate our commitment to racial justice. The School has established an anti-racism working group, with nearly 50 members drawn from across our staff and postgraduate student communities, which has drawn up a wide-ranging action plan that we have begun to implement.

Progress so far includes:

  • Producing a report of activities in colleges, departments and other universities to attract a greater diversity of undergraduate students, with a view to implementing best practice in SoGE from 2021/22.
  • Recruitment of an Access and Outreach Officer in 2021, to help the School increase both the ethnic and socio-economic diversity of its undergraduate intake.
  • Review of existing work on diversifying and decolonising the curriculum in SoGE, sharing best practice and linking with the University-wide diversifying and decolonising the curriculum project.
  • Producing a Code of Conduct for field researchers, to ensure that local stakeholders and collaborators are treated fairly.
  • Drafting a guide for supervisors, led by the postgraduate student anti-racism Collective, to improve supervisor awareness of the challenges faced by BAME students and those from outside Oxford.
  • Training a harassment advisor from a BAME background, to join SoGE's team of advisors.
  • Preparing a guide to inclusive communications, to ensure that SoGE's internal and external communications represent the diversity of people who work and study at the School, and use respectful and inclusive language.

Statement from the School's Anti-Racism Working Group on the statue of Cecil Rhodes

Members of the Anti-Racism Working Group of the School of Geography and the Environment welcome the recommendation of the independent commission of inquiry, set up by Oriel College, to remove the statue of Cecil Rhodes from the highest plinth on the High Street in Oxford. Cecil Rhodes was a very controversial figure during his lifetime. There was a movement to prevent a statue of him being raised after his death. And it is a source of shame that he is still being honoured in the city of Oxford more than two decades into the twenty first century. Removing the statue from its plinth would only be a small step, but a step in the right direction.

Athena SWAN Silver Award

The School of Geography and the Environment is committed to enhancing diversity and promoting equality of opportunity amongst all our staff and students. We are proud of our Athena Swan Silver Award, achieved in September 2021, which recognises our ongoing commitment to gender equality, although our aim is to promote equality of opportunity for all.

Our Athena Swan submission includes a detailed Action Plan for the next 5 years, to help us address the School's main equality and diversity challenges. Three key priorities are:

  • Having increased the number of women researchers and academics at relatively early career stages, enable them to step into more senior leadership roles;
  • Improve career development support for our large proportion of female fixed-term research staff, who move less often than their male peers into permanent academic jobs;
  • Improve the career progression of female professional and support staff, many of whom report feeling 'stuck' in lower grade roles.

The Athena SWAN Charter was established in 2005 to promote career advancement for women employed in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) in higher education and research. In 2015 the Charter was extended to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law.

The School's Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee oversees the implementation of our Athena SWAN actions, aimed at making the School an even better place in which to work and study. Some of our achievements to date include:

  • Introduction of Personal Development Review (PDR) for all staff
  • Implicit bias training for all staff involved in recruitment and student admissions
  • Workload model for academic staff, ensuring a fair distribution of teaching and other responsibilities
  • Monthly Athena SWAN coffee mornings for all staff and students
  • New School-wide mentoring scheme
  • New Privacy Room for feeding and changing babies, and for prayer
  • Celebrating Women Alumnae, bringing twelve of the School's inspirational alumnae together to share their career and life experiences, in person at a special event in January 2018 and on film.

In September 2017 the department launched a new mentoring scheme, open to all staff and DPhil students. The Geography and the Environment Mentoring Scheme - known as 'GEMS' - is open to any member of staff or DPhil student. It aims to help staff and students achieve personal and professional growth, with the support and guidance of a more experienced mentor. Mentees can take a fresh look at their career, skills and work-life balance, while mentors are able to give something back by helping other members of the School to succeed. As well as helping the individuals involved, mentoring can have wider benefits for the department. Staff who are more supported tend to be more motivated, more skilled and more successful. With mentors and mentees drawn from across the department, the School hopes to build an even more collegial and cohesive community of staff and students.

Inclusive Conference Guide

Read our best practice guide, designed to help event organisers promote diversity of attendance and inclusivity of participation.

Future Plans

We have a number of new initiatives and improvements planned, including:

  • Improved induction process for all staff
  • Greater transparency in reward and recognition processes
  • Promotion of family-friendly, flexible working policies
  • Encouraging more female applicants for academic and research posts, and more support for women's career progression
  • Ensuring no gender imbalance in student exam performance

Contact us

For more information about Athena SWAN, an accessible version of our Athena Swan submission, or info on equality, diversity and inclusion more broadly please contact Pk Kulasegram (they/them) (, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the School of Geography and the Environment.

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