RCSI first Irish higher level institution to launch race equality action plan

Plan seeks to encourage students, academics to speak out about discrimination, harassment

A new race equality action plan, which seeks to encourage student doctors and medical academics to speak out about bullying, discrimination, harassment or assault, has been launched by The Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI).

The RCSI plan, published on Monday, outlines the steps the university will take to improve the representation, progression and success of students, trainees and staff from minority groups, making it the first higher level education institution in Ireland to publish such a strategy.

The three-year plan includes the introduction of the Speak Out Tool which allows staff and students to report incidences of racism, harassment or discrimination of any kind, through a new national on-line system and signposting to areas of support.

The plan also includes a review of the healthcare curriculum to ensure greater representation of people of colour in teaching materials and the development of imagery of various illnesses which can present differently, according to skin tone.


The publication of the RCSI plan comes in the wake of October's Higher Education Authority (HEA) report on race equality which found higher education staff from ethnic minorities which much more likely to earn significantly less and be on precarious contracts compared to others.

It commits to “publicly” tackle “racial harassment, inequality and discrimination” and create a “campus-wide culture in which all members of the university community can participate and fulfil their potential regardless of ethnicity or race”.

Data on representation, inclusion and career progression will be collected through an annual consultation with staff and students and shared with senior management and governing bodies, under the plan which was developed by RCSI staff and students with external advice from Traveller and Roma charity Pavee Point.

The curriculum will also be updated so students and staff are prepared to work as “healthcare leaders in a racially/ethnically diverse world”, while training will be carried out to “improve awareness and understanding of racism and microaggressions among all staff and students”.

Future diversity

RCSI also commits in the plan to further diversifying its staff and student community and taking steps to maximise the opportunities and abilities of all within the university.

RCSI vice-chancellor professor Cathal Kelly noted that RCSI already takes great pride in the diversity of its student community and so “it is right that we should be taking very meaningful and practical steps to ensure this diversity is celebrated and protected”.

The university must also “examine our own teaching methods and academic practice to ensure it is reflective of the diverse range of patients that our students and staff will encounter to provide a truly international curriculum,” said professor Kelly.

Chair of the RCSI Race Equality Forum Emeka Okereke said ensuring Ireland’s future healthcare leaders are “culturally competent, socially conscious and have a sense of civic responsibility” would contribute to building a more inclusive and fairer society.

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak

Sorcha Pollak is an Irish Times reporter and cohost of the In the News podcast