How can higher education avoid institutionalised racial discrimination?

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religious discriminationHigher education employers might need to take steps to improve access to careers for ethnic minority workers after claims that racial discrimination remains rife in academia.

A new report produced by Kalwant Bhopal, reader in Education at the University of Southampton, found racism is just as as prevalent now in UK academia as it was 20 years ago.

The author of the study pointed out that even though the equality policies in place are much stronger than two decades ago, she still feels there exists an underlying subtext of racism.

Of the 65 academics interviewed, one said they believe a black candidate will always be overlooked for a white one unless they have proven themselves at a much higher level. The results of the research were published by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and are due to be presented at the American Educational Research Association annual conference in San Francisco.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency shows individuals from ethnic minorities made up just 12.6 per cent of academic staff in 2011-12, compared with 14 per cent of the population. Black and minority ethnic staff were made up only 4.5 per cent of senior managers in 2010-11.

Writing for the Independent, the founder of Black British Academics Deborah Gabriel stated the extent, nature and scope of the problem must be exposed as a necessary step to finding the answer to what she stated is “institutional” racism within academia.

“The fact that racial inequalities documented in the nineties still persist today tends to suggest that racism is deeply embedded within the structures and systems of higher education institutions and can therefore be more accurately described as institutionalised,” she said.

It was also noted by the Black British Academics that universities have to acknowledge that racism is deeply entrenched within their systems if progress is to be made.

One way higher education employers could improve access to careers for ethnic minorities is to identify individuals who can act as role models to encourage black staff members to aim higher.

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