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University apologises over ‘exploitative’ image in advert

The image, advertising an MSc course, used the picture of a Burmese child labourer


By Anttoni Numminen


The University of Aberdeen has issued an apology over an image it used to advertise one of its degrees on Instagram.


The image, which is that of a Burmese child labourer, was used to advertise an MSc degree in Global Health and Management.


After the issue was raised by a student on an AUSA Covid-19 Facebook group the University swiftly removed the image from its social media.


The concern was first raised by Camilo Alfonso Torres, a post-graduate research student in geography, who said the image was “insensitive and unnecessary”.


“There is no explanation on the relationship between his [the child’s] experience and the University MSc Global Health and Management. Is the school working with this community? Is the program focused on tackling social inequalities like this one? Or is it just exploiting his image to promote their program?


“This tells me Uni is open to post on social media about how Black Lives Matter but is not really working towards inclusion and diversity sensibility from within.”

Soon after the post was uploaded, AUSA’s new Vice-President for Welfare, Louise Henrard, commented to say that the post had been removed and AUSA BAME Forum members would be meeting with the University’s Digital Marketing Team.




Caption: The original image from international Photojournalist Pepe Molina Cruz


The University’s apology, issued by Professor Siladitya Bhattacharya, Head of the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, who chairs the newly created Race Equality Strategy Group, said:

“One of the images used to advertise our MSc Global Health and Management programme was meant to illustrate the profound impact of social deprivation on global health. We sincerely apologise for any upset caused by this. The picture was removed as soon as concerns were brought to our attention and has since been deleted from the University’s image bank.


“The University has accelerated its work to root out racism in all its forms and has launched a series of initiatives to tackle this, including signing up to the Race Equality Charter and, later this month, holding the first in a series of ‘listening sessions’ to learn from the lived experiences of students and staff.


“Within the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition we are scrutinising all our teaching material, reviewing our curriculum and will now be re-examining our marketing material. I am grateful to those who brought this to our attention and would like to meet them to discuss ways of improving our methods of external communication.”


The School of Medicine was recently accused of institutional racism by Black Medical Students Aberdeen in an open letter which included numerous testimonies of racism experienced by students at the hands of staff.

Torres said that taking down the offending post was not the only point, emphasising that the people who are in charge of the University’s marketing and communications understand why posting the picture was wrong and “work towards including diversity sensibility in their creative process”.

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