A person has the protected characteristic of race if they fall within a particular racial group. A racial group can be made up of two or more different racial groups (for example, black Britons).  Race includes colour, nationality (including citizenship) and ethnic or national origins. 


  • Colour includes being black or white.
  • Nationality includes being a British, Australian or Swiss citizen.
  • Ethnic or national origins include being from a Roma background or of Chinese heritage.
  • A racial group could be “black Britons” which would encompass those people who are both black and who are British citizens.

Under the Equality Act, all racial groups are protected from direct and indirect discrimination and harassment – whether it is perceived, actual or associated.


When the protected characteristic is race, deliberately segregating a student or group of students from others of a different race automatically amounts to less favourable treatment.


An employer rejects a job application form from a white woman whom he wrongly thinks is black, because the applicant has an African-sounding name. This would constitute direct race discrimination based on the employer’s mistaken perception.

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Team (email: equality-diversity@bristol.ac.uk or tel: 0117 33 18087) can provide specific advice to colleagues on this area of equality, as it applies to staff and students.