The Guardian reported on Friday that, ‘leading black academics are calling for an urgent culture change at UK universities as figures show there are just 50 black British professors out of more than 14,000, and the number has barely changed in eight years.’ These figures are reported using data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
Thus black academics are demanding urgent action and argue that they have to work twice as hard as their white peers and are passed over for promotion. Indeed, a study that will be published in October of this year found that ethnic minorities at UK universities feel “isolated and marginalised”.
Heidi Mirza, an emeritus professor at the Institute of Education, University of London, is demanding new legislation to require universities to tackle discrimination. She states that there are too many ‘soft options’ for universities and she suggests that there should be penalties for anyone who paid lip-service to the under-representation of minorities in education.
The HESA figures demonstrate that black British professors make up just 0.4% of all British professors – 50 out of 14,385. This is despite the fact that 2.8% of the population of England and Wales is Black African or Black Caribbean, according to the Office for National Statistics. Only 10 of the 50 black British professors are women.
The figures reflect professors in post in December 2009. When black professors from overseas were included, the figure rose to 75. This is still 0.4%of all 17,375 professors at UK universities. The six universities with more than two black professors from the UK or overseas include London Metropolitan, Nottingham, and Brunel universities. Some 94.3% of British professors are white, and 3.7% are Asian. Some 1.2% of all academics – not just professors – are black. There are no black vice-chancellors in the UK.
Harry Goulbourne, professor of sociology at London South Bank University, said that while the crude racism of the past had gone, universities were riddled with “passive racism”. He said that, as a black man aspiring to be a professor, he had had to publish twice as many academic papers as his white peers. He said he had switched out of the field of politics, because it was not one that promoted minorities. He called for a “cultural shift” inside the most prestigious universities.
Mirza said UK universities were “nepotistic and cliquey”. “It is all about who you know,” she said.
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