‘Living Black at University’ was commissioned and published by Unite Students to showcase the experiences of Black students in university halls – the first report of its kind outside of the academic context in higher education .

The report surveyed more than 1000 students and interviews were also conducted to gain a deeper appreciation of students’ experiences. The data that came out of the research offers shocking statistics about the number of Black students facing racism and witnessing racist behaviour.

“These experiences ranged from insensitivity around things like hair or food, to the use of racial slurs, to spitting, shouting and physical violence.”

54% of Black students in the survey said they had been a victim of racism while in UK student accommodation, whilst 64% had said they had witnessed incidents of racism. On top of this, some students suggested that an intentional policy to separate students by race or nationality was being instigated by their universities.

Vice President of the National Union of Students, Hillary Gyebi-Ababio, said of the findings of the report, “For a long time, the experiences of students in student accommodation have been overlooked and disconnected from the broader university experience. This is particularly true for Black students, who often speak of high levels of racism in and at university, including in their accommodation.”

75% of Black students also expressed that racism had an effect on their mental health, made worse by lack of support services and inexperience of counsellors in understanding the impacts of such events.

The report and surrounding commentary on the findings emphasise the need to tackle racism at all levels and locations of university, not just in academic settings. 

The impacts of racism extend far beyond the classroom, touching upon all aspects of ‘uni life’. Accommodation is vitally important in shaping the student experience so universities and accommodation providers must now work together to “eliminate racism from all areas of the student experience, including student accommodation” through initiatives like better staff training, and more diverse hiring.

A final suggestion from the report is for accommodation providers to build trust with Black students by collecting and making available the data and outcome of complaints regarding racism. 

Black students must be made to feel safe and supported in their accommodation, sentiments which unfortunately have not been reflected in all students’ university experience. 

Read the full report here: https://www.unite-group.co.uk/living-black-at-university