New measures to tackle racial inequality, as Imperial pledges to ‘do better’

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Black Lives Matter protesters in London, May 2020

Black Lives Matters protesters in London

Imperial’s President has announced a series of initiatives to address current and historic racial injustices.

Racism and violence have no place in society. Our spirit of common purpose must prevail Professor Alice Gast President

In a message to the College community, President Alice Gast said: “I feel a deep anger and despair over the senseless death of George Floyd. It brings to the surface my shock and disappointment that racism and the violence that it breeds continue in the United States.

"I am also saddened by persistent racial inequality and injustice here in Britain and around the world. My heart goes out to all who have been directly or indirectly hurt by racism or racist acts.   

“Racism and violence have no place in society. Our spirit of common purpose must prevail, and we must pull together and collaborate as a community to support those who are afraid and mourning and to say: Black Lives Matter.   

“We are a university committed to equality, diversity and inclusion. I am determined to not just talk about solidarity, but to listen to all members of our community so that we are better placed to enact change. We all have the responsibility and opportunity to contribute our excellence toward addressing racial inequality and injustice.  We can all do more and we will.”

A close up shot of a protester carrying a Black Lives Matter Placard in Hyde Park, London on the 3/6/2020 Among the steps Imperial is immediately taking are:  

  • Working with Imperial As One, the College’s BAME advisory group, to develop a concrete action plan to make a tangible difference in Imperial's community and wider society. 
  • Rolling out new advice and support to equip staff and students to be better white allies. 
  • Driving forward a new outreach programme targeting Black students in London with the aim of doubling the number coming to Imperial by 2024-25. 
  • Establishing a new scholarship fund to support Black students
  • Ceasing use of the College’s historic Latin motto in any new materials in order to better reflect the College’s culture, values and commitment to diversity. 
  • Commissioning a working group to examine the College's history and legacy. 

Listening and learning 

Imperial as One will be seeking the views of the College community and will be developing an action plan to make a difference both within the Imperial community, and in wider society. This builds on their existing Belonging – Exploring the BAME Experience seminars, a fortnightly series of candid interviews with BAME students, academics and professionals sharing their experiences and insights in finding their sense of belonging. 

Imperial’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre has developed new advice and guidance to help members of Imperial’s community become better white allies, including a raft of educational resources, advice, and ways to take action. 

Supporting Black students 

Following requests from alumni, Imperial will launch a new fundraising campaign for scholarships to support Black students, so that Imperial’s community and friends can contribute to their transformative impact. 

Professor Gast also announced new scholarships for the next academic year. The move follows the establishment of the The Lara & Biodun Olanrewaju Scholarship earlier this year, which supports Black undergraduate students of exceptional academic merit in the Department of Mechanical Engineering or the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Last year DeepMind also funded four new scholarships for BAME or women postgraduate students in the Department of Computing, with a focus on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

Imperial’s access and participation plan includes a new outreach programme targeting Black students in London with the aim of doubling the number coming to Imperial by 2024-25. In her message to staff, Professor Gast commits to turning this plan into action. 

Rethinking the motto and examining our history and legacy

The College's motto, coined in 1908 when Imperial was assigned a coat of arms by royal warrant, is ‘Scientia imperii decus et tutamen’ which can be translated as ‘Scientific knowledge, the crowning glory and the safeguard of the empire’. 

The old and new crest
The old and new crest

The motto traditionally appears beneath Imperial’s crest, which is reserved for uses that promote the heritage and history of the College, such as degree certificates, invitations to formal College events, official sports team apparel and merchandise. 

Imperial has now updated the design of its crest to no longer include this motto, and it will not be used on any new materials. The new crest is already in use by the President’s Office and other central services at Imperial. Some materials and merchandise may continue to bear the Latin motto for a short while as the new design is adopted into use. 

The move follows feedback from Imperial's community and is to better reflect the College's culture, values and commitment to support a diverse and inclusive community. 

Alongside this, Imperial will be launching a working group to examine the College's history and legacy. 

Why can’t Imperial change the motto's wording? 

Imperial can stop using its motto, but cannot simply reword it. Unlike most universities, Imperial's historic Latin motto was assigned to the institution as part of its Royal Warrant in 1908. This means that while Imperial can choose to stop displaying it, it cannot be changed or reworded unilaterally. Introducing a new motto would require a new Royal Warrant to be issued by The Queen, as well as approval from the College of Arms. 

More information about Imperial’s history and coat of arms can be found on our website. 

This story was updated on 11 June to clarify why Imperial is not changing the wording of its motto.


Deborah Evanson

Deborah Evanson
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Andrew Scheuber

Andrew Scheuber
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