UK Universities and the “Black Lives Matter” Movement

The brutal killing of George Floyd in Minnesota sparked outrage worldwide which were then followed by mass protests that originated in the USA and immediately spread to the UK. Many different issues lead to the protests – Read more about the background to the protests here.

What is racial harassment? 

The racial harassment is the behaviour that has the purpose or effect of violating the other person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person. 

In 2019 Equality and Human Rights Commissions (EHRC) published a report about racism in the university campuses in the UK. The inquiry found a quarter of minority ethnic students, including non-British white students, experienced racial slurs and insults, including the N-word and the P-word in the campus. Among the reported incidents, two-thirds came from other students and one third from the academics.  

EHRC survey revealed that around a quarter of students from ethnic minority backgrounds16(24%) and 9% of White British students had experienced racial harassment since starting their course. This is equal to 13% of all current students in British universities (EHRC, 2019a). The figures were highest for Black students (29%) and Asian students (27%). The most common racial harassment is name-calling, insults and jokes (56%), followed by other forms of verbal abuse (45%). In the gender group, male students (16%) were twice as likely as women (8%) to have experienced racial harassment. (EHRC, 2019a). 

Universities have a shared passion for tackling racial issues and are proposing reforms and other support for its students to eradicate racial discrimination once and for all. University students in the UK are known for having a sound platform to amplify their voice in current affairs, and even though these events happened in the USA, they quickly were recognised by leading institutions and put at the forefront of their agenda.


Universities have a shared passion for tackling racial issues and are proposing reforms and other support for its students to eradicate racial discrimination once and for all. University students in the UK are known for having a sound platform to amplify their voice in current affairs, and even though these events happened in the USA, they quickly were recognised by leading institutions and put at the forefront of their agenda.

Let’s have a look at how some UK  universities  reacted to the unfolding event of “Black Lives Matter.”

University of Bristol

Much focus has been on Bristol following the removal of the statue of slave trader Edward Colston from the city centre then dumped in the docks. They removed some windows and are also currently reviewing a logo featuring Edward Colston. They are a determined institution to tackle racism in all its forms and are promoting a speak-up culture that places responsibility on all of us. In the past five years, they have seen a 44% increase in BAME student enrolments.

Here is a list of their campaigns to support.


University of Oxford

Many students have had their grades appealed after the trauma of George Floyd’s death. There are also petitions to remove a Cecil Rhodes statue for representing colonialism and racism.

Read more on the protests in Oxford here.


UCL has undertaken frivolous action to do as much about racial inequality as possible. Recognises white privilege in its institution that is reflected in the profile of staff who reach senior positions in their organisation. They are pledging to change this by using Fair Recruitment Specialists on appointment panels and are tackling intersectional injustices through their Athena Swan action plan to tackle the fact that Black women’s experiences of promotion have been disproportionately negative.  Read more on the UCL page here.

University of Brighton

As many as 10,000 attended the forming a mile-long line along the seafront activists holding signs staged a silent protest on Saturday afternoon. Read more here.


University of Cambridge

The student union has produced a detailed campaign statement discussing and responding to police brutality by providing an abundance of resources for ways to understand or donate to the cause. 

Check out their detailed post here on what you can do.

De Montfort University

Has listed some questions online that we must repeatedly ask ourselves:

  • What does our senior and governing body representation look like?
  • What do our staff demographics look like?
  • What do our professors look like?
  • What and who does our curriculum represent?
  • What outcomes do our black students get?
  • Who feels like they belong – or don’t belong – on our campus?
  • What is the lived experience of our black staff and students at DMU?

Check them out here. 

University of Leeds

The Parkinson building on campus lited purple to support #BlackLivesMatter.


University of Manchester 

MU has also taken a great approach to the black lives matter movement in the UK. Sociologists at Manchester have produced a pioneering Our Migration Story resource for UK educators to support the decolonisation of the curriculum in British schools and contest dominant narratives of what British identity is, making anti-racist resources freely available for use in classrooms. Students at Manchester are involved in decolonising their curriculum, and many petitions are circulating about this. 

Regarding their operations, they have appointed a lead for race equality, achieved the race Equality Charter Mark which improves representation and have launched campaigns through the student union to educate and support students.

Read more here.

University of St Andrews

Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, Professor Sally Mapstone, today apologised on behalf of Scotland’s first University for past failures to value and elevate Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students and scholars.

 To support change, the University of St Andrews has also published, for the first time, comprehensive Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Progress Reports.  The reports also include detailed information on attainment and retention, and provide important context for the actions the University is taking to improve BAME representation.

Read more here

How vital technology can be in times of change and uncertainty

While some sectors are significantly deprived, it is the prime time for others. As everything moves online due to the virus, business follows suit where we notice an increase in demand for online products and services. Relevant to education, there have been many tools, apps and methods introduced to mitigate the current conditions. Some are highlighted below.

Virtual Learning

As teaching is moved online, schools and universities around the world follow pursuit doing assessments online as campuses close. A transition to digital education is occurring very fast, and pushing institutions and businesses to embrace their creativity. Chinese start-ups and technology companies have raised more than $2.5bn during the month to invest in sectors, including biotechnology an online education. Read the Financial Times article here. 

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

AI is playing a large part in finding a cure for coronavirus. It is also increasingly being used in educational methods as we are prompted to think critically and creatively. AI-based tech is a London based online learning platform that uses AI, which creates learning pathways tailored and adapted for each student. Read more here.

Read about changes to education with artificial intelligence and the future of innovative technology in education here.

What are the businesses booming at the lockdown?

The 2008 financial crisis brought about the boom of many multi-million dollar businesses including Instagram, Uber, Airbnb, Whatsapp, Groupon and Dropbox. Read more on this here


 Zoom is an online conference calling service that has augmented in value rapidly since the move to the online world. The zoom share price had soared from under $70 a share in January, before the coronavirus struck western countries, to $150 on Monday reaching a total market value of $42bn. The boom in Zoom Video Communication’s share price has turned its founder and chief executive, Eric Yuan, into one of the world’s wealthiest people.

Read more on the success of Zoom here.

Private tutoring

Tutoring is an already highly demanded service that is equally high in price. The uncertainty caused by a coronavirus, especially for students aiming to achieve certain grades to get into their University of choice, has drastically increased. Tutors can demand as much as $300 for 45 minutes of work. It is pursued around the world as more tutors are available to hold classes with the resources and technology to make it virtually such as conference calling, interactive games and screen sharing. 

Read more on the rapid rise of private tutoring in China here. 

Fitness Apps:

These applications are everywhere and are taking over online platforms and social media. An interest in fitness equipment is also increasing, which is dubbed as ‘dumbbells are the new toilet paper’ referring to the drastic panic buying of toilet roll.  

Property Market :

 The Blind Sales of home and viewing continuing during the lockdown using the technology like Skype, Zoom and whats App video call. If the buyer or tenant like the location and know the size and other local facilities, then they are putting the offer to the property.  The government lockdown eases with come up with a new set of rules for the property market, and the rental market will be the first to recover. 

What are they offering?

Many large tech companies have been offering free trials, free access, and overall lowering their barriers to accessing their products.

  • Google is allowing free access to advanced features that generally have a fee every month for Hangouts Meet to all G Suite and G Suite Education customers for several months.
  • Microsoft offered a free six-month trial of its top tier of Microsoft Teams to enable schools, hospitals, and businesses in China to keep operating even with the restrictions of coronavirus.
  • Zoom offers member benefits to non-members

Read the Forbes article to see what other companies are getting involved here.

Finally, the future of technology in education, real estate and other sectors will rely on data safety and equal accessibility to all.  Some families can not afford laptops or smartphone. So the education and tech industry should consider coming with a new plan to help the pooper in society. 

How will the virus impact the process for 2020/21 applicants & the grades ?

UCAS Applications

UCAS is working with universities, colleges, and the government to support applicants during these unprecedented times. To give some more time to students applying, they have extended some deadlines such as their May offer deadline for UCAS Undergraduate applicants. UCAS aims to minimise the impact on applicants and is opting for the same process as previous years.

  • If you’re holding a conditional offer – your offer will still become unconditional if you meet the offer conditions.
  • If you’ve already accepted an unconditional offer – this does not affect your offer.
  • If your application is unsuccessful – you can still use Extra and Clearing as thousands of other students before you have.
  • If you’re applying as a private candidate – you need to get in touch directly with the universities or schools, you have applied to. Be assured they will consider your circumstances when they review your application.

Find out more on the UCAS website here.

Standardised tests (IELTS, TOEFL, A-levels)


IELTS tests have been suspended until further notice for the COVID19 outbreak to protect the health of test-takers.  IELTS has launched a new online test call IELTS indicator. The Indicator test will be available in selected location and bookings open from 22 of April. They are also planning to hold additional test sessions as soon as permitted, to ensure that they have the capacity for those who need to take IELTS, as quickly as possible, for an admissions decision.  Updated information here.


Tests have been moved online everywhere except Mainland China and Iran subject top eligibility. The test is an at-home testing solution for the TOEFL iBT test for students who have been affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19). Monitoring of the test will be conducted using live remote proctors and artificial intelligence technology by ProctorU, the leading proctoring solution for online testing. 


The government announced the closure of all schools until further notice and clarity that GCSE’s and A-level exams will all be cancelled. Have a look at how GCSE’s and A-levels will be awarded in summer 2020 here.

University Final Exams

The race has been on for quite some time to find the best way to reorganise end of year exams for students so that it remains highly accurate and controlled. Along with teaching, exams have been moved online, and institutions face a challenge of organising online exams. The task has been a challenge, how to grade each student on their modules, some subjects are looking at predicted grades, while others are converting their exams to coursework which can be submitted through portals online. There is much debate about this currently, some medical students have had exams ultimately cancelled, while Cambridge, in particular, is in the spotlight where their students are debating different views on how best for them to be assessed this year. Read more here.

It is specific to each institution how and when they take steps to transition to the current circumstances. While all students must strictly follow their school or universities guideline, we are certain that we have to accept an unconventional method of final examinations for students in 2020. 

Some Universities summer assessment announced below:

University of Oxford: There will be no exams for Trinity term. The first-year undergraduate students will consider having passed apart from law and medicine. For the second and third-year undergraduate students’ exams will be deferred into the next academic year. The final year undergraduate and taught masters would be replaced either open-book versions of papers, longer pieces of work completed over several days, or a mix of the two. 

University College London (UCL):  UCL adopted a ‘no detriment’ principle which recognises current performance so far and ensures that academic outcomes cannot be negatively affected by the alternative assessments that put in place in response to this extraordinary situation. UCL is working to offer a modified assessment rather than cancelling to complete the academic year. 

King’s College London (KCL):  KCL has adopted “safety net policy” which means to ensure that no student will be disadvantaged academically by the impact of the current situation. KCL will put in place a range of ‘safety net’ arrangements to manage any negative impact on students’ outcomes. KCL has adopted an assessment format that would allow the students to complete the assessment remotely, such as replacing some unseen, timed exams with open-book exams, or alternative forms of coursework.

Imperial College London:  The College has established an education group with membership, including students, academic and administrative representatives to consider the impact of the COVID19 and the delivery of the education. The education group concluded this year summer assessment would be taking place remotely rather than cancelling altogether. 

The University of Manchester: The university has taken no disadvantage approach for all assessments. First-year and internal Foundation Year students will progress automatically to your next year of study. All faculties will apply no disadvantage policy, and all student should complete the semester two dissertation, coursework, and projects. 

How are universities in the UK affected by COVID-19 and what actions are they taking?

Universities around the UK mostly followed pursuit in following government advice and gradually implemented institutional lockdown measures while moving to teach online. Some are involved in the research, whereas other schools and universities face unprecedented challenges that they must make necessary adjustments to accommodate a large population in this crucial sector.

University of Oxford 

Oxford took swift but gradual steps to suspend assessments and move to teach online when adapting to the detrimental effects of coronavirus (COVID-19). The vice-chancellor sent a letter early March stating that an outbreak at the University was “inevitable” and that they have been preparing for this since early February. At first, vulnerable staff and students were advised to go home after cancelling/postponing Easter examinations. Shortly after Stage 4 of its emergency response plan was initiated, operations closed except some including the COVID-19 research laboratories that are at the forefront of global efforts in understanding the virus and to finding a cure. Follow their progress here.

More information can be found on the University of Oxford page here.

University of Cambridge 

40% of their students are international, and they faced difficulty in trying to get homes before flight restrictions. They followed similar steps to Oxford, leading to their lockdown, details can be found here. They are also at the forefront in understanding COVID-19, a £20 million investment from the University was given to the Genomics UK Consortium to deliver large scale, rapid sequencing of the cause of the disease and to share intelligence with hospitals, the NHS and the government. Aiming to capture the experience of the Collegiate University and the City of Cambridge during the pandemic, Cambridge University Library has launched a new collaborative collection.

Keeper of the University Archives said:

“In launching this appeal for material, we want to revive the shared enthusiasm for themed collecting which assembled the Great War Collection at the University Library from 1915 onwards and the more recent collection on our Brexit materials, launched in 2016.”

Queen Mary University of London

Universities are in a race to find the vaccine for coronavirus. Queen Mary has organised their medical students form years 1-4 to volunteer, and are working on ways to offer NHS staff accommodation. At Queen Mary BioEnterprises Innovation Centre in Whitechapel, they are offering volunteers £3500 to be infected by a form of the coronavirus to find a vaccine. More information, click here.

Warwick University

The University announced further details for the intermediate final year online assessments. All assessments will have a 24-hour assessment window to be completed taking into account the different time zones. They also have an extra 45 minutes allocated to download and upload answers through an alternative exams portal. Five different types of online assessment have replaced all exams. These include Assignments, open-book assessments, file-based open book exams, multiple-choice question sets and oral exams. Read more here. 

City, University of London

Most of the campus buildings closed on Friday, March 20th. Face-to-face teaching has already ended, and staff are continuing to support students while working remotely as they mostly take similar actions to the other universities. A research expert at Cass Business School has developed a model which pools the intensive care unit (ICU) facilities to improve care for COVID-19 patients. Find out more here. 

The University of Edinburgh, University of Nottingham and Newcastle University

These institutions have announced the option of early graduation dates for medical students who were supposed to graduate in 3 months. These students have passed their exams and completed assignments in line with the General Medical Council. After a foundation programme, they can fast track to supporting the battle against the pandemic. Find out more here. 

University of Essex 

 At first, the University moved all teaching online, but parts of the University remained open such as the library, shops and catering outlets. Following government advice, these also closed and have caused increased pressure on workers and student staff when cases reached 1000. More than 250 people have signed an open letter to the University of Essex in protest against its decision to suspend contracts for zero-hour workers as they are left without pay for the foreseeable future. Read more here. 

University of Brighton

They have also followed in the footsteps of other university closures. Due to their vast number of international students, they have published useful FAQ’s with visa related questions etc. here. 


Top 10 university courses with the heaviest workloads

University is hard work. In between making your 9 am lectures and making new friends, you’ve also got to master cooking, cleaning and your finances. On top of all that, there’s your coursework.

Depending on which course you choose, your workload will vary. Using HEPI UK Engagement Survey 2019, and raw data from researcher Rachel Hewitt, we have calculated the courses with the most contact hours, as well as time spent on independent study or work placements, per week. Note that figures have been rounded.

Read the full article from the Telegraph

What do universities look for in a personal statement?

A personal statement is your chance to make your UCAS applicationstand out and convince tutors at your chosen universities that you’re the perfect candidate for a course.

A short essay of 4,000 characters, with the content, structure and tone entirely up to you, it can also beadaunting prospect. “Interviews are no longer routine in the admissions process, other than for highly competitive courses, and that makes it all the more important for an applicant to use their personal statement effectively,” explains Joanne Tallentire, head of admissions at Queen Mary University London.

Read the full article from the Telegraph