Goldsmiths, University of London, is to allow students to cite cases of racial trauma as having affected their studies, becoming the first UK university to recognize the damaging effects of racism on academic progress.
The move comes after a campaign by the university’s student union to include racial trauma in “serious life event” categories that require a student more time to submit courses or assessments.
Frances Corner, Principal of Goldsmiths, said: “This change relates to our extenuating circumstances policy, which allows students to ask us to take serious life events into account when evaluating their progress in their studies.
“Self-certification for this type of support is common in universities and students are entitled to appropriate support when the need arises.
“A student must submit a detailed statement which is carefully reviewed by university departments, which then decide on an appropriate response.
“Applications are reviewed on a case-by-case basis, with the college committed to providing the best possible support to each of our students. “
The Goldsmiths student union said the move was “excellent news and a step in the right direction,” and was the result of a campaign by union leaders.
The college said its academic council had “noted the intention to include racial trauma” among the examples of traumas for which students can apply as extenuating circumstances affecting their work.
“We will be producing updated guidance on this category for students and staff in time for the new academic year, working with our academic community, including experts in the field, and our student representatives,” said Goldsmiths.
Universities allow students to cite mitigating circumstances, including personal trauma and mental health issues, in requests for extension of course deadlines or for delaying or replacing exams or other assessments.
Following George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in the United States last year, several UK universities have allowed students to seek additional racial trauma consideration. But Goldsmiths’ decision would be the first time that racial trauma has been officially recognized as a specific category.
Goldsmiths has a high proportion of students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Last year the college started working on a racial justice strategy, developed by a council chaired by Professor Corner as director.