The evolution of the BME Staff Network

Portrait image of Daphne Cunningham

In 2015, my line manager tapped me on the shoulder, I got up from my desk and off we went to the meeting where they announced the creation of the Oxford BME Staff Network. We were ready – past ready – for a community of colour to come together from all parts of the University of Oxford and all staff levels.


We wanted not only to be a community to connect with and socialise with each other, but to have a seat at the table when key issues of concern were discussed

It was our second chairperson, Nita Fisher, who advocated successfully for the network to engage with the process of hiring the Head of the Equality and Diversity Unit. This led to LGBTQ, disability and BAME advocacy groups being invited to meet candidates for the role. 

The former Advocate for Equality and Diversity, Dr Rebecca Surender, lobbied for the network’s participation in established University equality and diversity committees, including the Race Equality Charter Mark application process. 

Last year, in the middle of the George Floyd protests, the network wrote an open statement to the Vice-Chancellor outlining points of action that we argued need to be immediately addressed. Today, the chairs and members of the network are working on the Race Equality Task Force to help shape cultural change at the University. 

Alongside the work the network does to support diversity and inclusion at the University is the work we do to build community

For the past six years, the network has invited speakers for the annual Black History Month Lecture to bring the Oxford community, town and gown, together to celebrate the achievements of people of ethnic heritage and to provide inspiration. Through our weekly newsletter and termly meetings we discuss what is relevant to our wider community and to those within Oxford.

This spring, the network co-hosted a virtual discussion panel on medical racism with the University of Kent’s BAME Staff Network. It was so well attended that we decided to make this topical subject the focus of this year's Black History Month lecture. The virtual event is scheduled for Thursday 28 October, 17:30 to 19:00, with guest speaker Professor Kevin Fenton of Public Health England. Registration is free: here

The network’s Allyship Committee also recently launched the Anti-Racism Ally Network ‘to create a supportive community to tackle systematic racism at the University of Oxford’, which is open to all University members, students and staff. 

Alexander Gordon (Co-Chair) and I would like to take this opportunity to invite BME staff members interested in the BME Staff Network to read our webpages and subscribe.

2021 Black History Month Lecture at the University of Oxford

Thursday 28 October, 17:30 to 19:00 

Register to attend

COVID and disproportionality and what does it mean for health disparities moving forward? 

Professor Kevin Fenton

Regional Director of Public Health OHID DHSC

NHS London and statutory advisor to the Mayor of London and the London Assembly