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 recognise 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 the categories of “serious life events” that require a student extra time for submitting coursework or assessments.
Frances Corner, the warden of Goldsmiths, said: “This change relates to our extenuating circumstances policy, which enables students to ask us to take into account serious life events when assessing their progress with their studies.
“Self-certification for this kind of support is common at universities and students are entitled to proper support when the need arises.
“A student must submit a detailed statement which is carefully considered by academic departments, who then decide an appropriate response.
“Applications are considered on a case-by-case basis, with the college committed to providing the best possible support to each of our students.”
Goldsmiths’ student union said the move was “great news and a step in the right direction”, and was the result of campaigning by the union’s officers.
The college said that its academic board has “noted the intention to include racial trauma” as one of the examples of trauma for which students may apply as extenuating circumstances affecting their work.
“We will produce 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,” Goldsmiths said.
Universities allow students to cite extenuating circumstances including personal trauma and mental health issues in applications to extend course deadlines or to delay or replace exams or other assessments.
In the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in the US last year, several universities in the UK allowed students to apply for extra consideration for racial trauma. But Goldsmiths’s move would be the first time that racial trauma has been formally recognised as a specific category.
Goldsmiths has a high proportion of students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Last year the college began working on a racial justice strategy, developed by a board chaired by Prof Corner as warden.