University of Oxford appoints first Chief Diversity Officer as Race Equality Strategy launched

The University’s vision is to be a diverse, inclusive community that stands as a model for race equality in society. To this end, the Race Equality Strategy envisages a long-term programme to deliver lasting change for staff and students at Oxford.

The plan sets out ten strategic objectives. These include addressing racism wherever it is found at the University, increasing the proportions of black and minority ethnic staff, ensuring an inclusive student experience, embedding inclusive research practices and increasing the representativeness of University decision-making and governance structures.

The strategy takes forward the work of the Race Equality Task Force whose recommendations were formed through extensive internal and external consultation, and endorsed by the collegiate University.

One of the key recommendations of the Task Force was that there should be a senior leader in the institution to take forward the Race Equality Strategy and equality and diversity more generally.  Today, the University has also announced the appointment of Professor Tim Soutphommasane as its Chief Diversity Officer. 

Professor Tim Soutphommasane

The Chief Diversity Officer of the University will coordinate the delivery of the strategy working alongside the Registrar and Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Heads of Divisions and Conference of Colleges in the embedding of equality in the University policy and practice. Professor Soutphommasane is expected to join the University in January 2023, and will be a member of the faculty of the Department of Politics and International Relations. He is currently based at the University of Sydney, where he is Professor of Practice (Sociology and Political Theory) and Director of the University's Culture Strategy. 

A political theorist and human rights advocate, he was Australia’s Race Discrimination Commissioner from 2013 to 2018, during which he led the nation’s anti-racism strategy and various initiatives on diversity and leadership. His thinking on patriotism, multiculturalism and national identity has been influential in debates in Australia and Britain.

Professor Soutphommasane said of his appointment:

I am honoured to join the University of Oxford as Chief Diversity Officer. Equality, diversity and inclusion are critical to Oxford’s success as a global institution. I look forward to working with colleagues and students from across the collegiate University community.

Professor Anne Trefethen, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (People & Digital), and Race Equality Task Force co-chair, said: 

We are delighted to be able to announce the Race Equality Strategy. Since the Task Force was formed, we have been working in close collaboration with our whole community to develop our vision for race equality at Oxford.  And crucially, we are very fortunate to now have Professor Soutphommasane joining us as the University’s first Chief Diversity Officer. He brings a breadth of experience that will help ensure delivery of the strategy and taking forward our ambitions on equality and diversity more broadly.  The development of the strategy and recruitment of the Chief Diversity officer were both lengthy processes, and I am grateful to all involved. 

Martin Williams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), and Race Equality Task Force co-chair, said:  

This is an excellent appointment for Oxford and for our race equality ambitions. This final strategy would not have been possible without the invaluable contributions of staff and students across the collegiate University. The path ahead will not be without challenges, but we will continue to listen and be guided by our community.

Patricia Daley, Professor of the Human Geography of Africa and the Helen Morag Fellow and Tutor in Geography at Jesus College, and Race Equality Task Force co-chair, said: 

This is an important appointment and very timely. With an approved final strategy and a seasoned figure in driving institutional, cultural change joining us to lead it, I look forward to seeing our vision for Oxford come to fruition. 

Implementation of the strategy will take place from the 2022/23 academic year; and more information will follow in due course. To find out more, visit the Race Topic page and Read the Strategy.