Sofia Akel is an education activist and researcher, campaigning and leading work to tackle institutional racism in education, including the awarding gap, academic pipeline and decolonising education. She has worked in a number of universities and students’ unions, holding various elected, specialist and consultancy roles. Currently, she is leading London Metropolitan University’s race equity work for the Centre of Equity and Inclusion.
In addition, Sofia also works in a number of public-facing roles such as: journalism, historical and race-related research and consultancy with news outlets and production companies. Most recently she worked with BAFTA award-winning director Aneil Karia and actor and musician Kano on his short-film/performance ‘Teardrops,’ highlighting the disproportionate deaths of Black people in police custody in the UK.
Her recent report, Institutionalised (2021) examined Islamophobia in the higher education sector, from the student to the staff experience. Looking in detail at how Islamophobia manifests itself and what must be done to tackle these. The report was widely shared across the sector, including international press.
Sofia’s previous research Insider-Outsider (2019) examined the role of race in shaping the experiences of Black and minority ethnic students at Goldsmiths College and Students’ Union, which was covered nationally in the press. She has also written for international news publication gal-dem, on racism in education and the racially disproportionate deaths of COVID-19 in the UK. Some of her recent appearances and interviews include The Huffington Post, The Guardian, The Strategist (New York Magazine), Channel 4 News and BBC Radio London.
Whilst completing her undergraduate and master’s degrees, Sofia established her university’s branch of the 'Why is my Curriculum White' campaign to decolonise higher education, as well as creating a student-led organisation to tackle racial employment discrimination. Sofia is passionate about supporting grassroots organising and therefore mentors student activists across the UK who are researching the impact of institutional racism in their respective universities.
Her work on race equality has won her multiple awards including the Powerlist’s Future Leaders Award and Campaign of the Year.
In addition to her activism, Sofia has also lectured at top UK and international universities. She was an associate lecturer of an MA Race in Social Work seminar at Lancaster University, and previously supported lecturing, led by renowned journalist Afua Hirsch on Government and Public Affairs Reporting at the University of Southern California Annenberg School.
Most recently Sofia Akel launched a campaign to tackle barriers to accessing books through the Free Book Campaign. The aim of the campaign is to get books by authors of colour to those who cannot access them due to financial or other systemic barriers to access. So far she has raised over £7,500 and is receiving an ever-growing number of book donations from renowned publishers including Canongate, Penguin Random House, 4th Estate and Vintage. As a result, she was shortlisted for the London Book Fair’s Trailblazer 2021 Awards.