Let’s Talk About Race

Over on the Equality Challenge Unit blog, Janet Beer (VC of Liverpool and Chair of the ECU Board) writes of the need for consideration of race equality in HE.

I’ve written plenty of times in the past about the differential outcomes for students, but here Professor Beer focuses on the inequalities for staff:

…..speculating about how long it will be before minority ethnic women, or minority ethnic individuals generally, are fairly represented within our sector is different. Leaders in our higher education institutions know that racial inequalities exist, but we are not talking about them publicly. None of us wants to attract negative press, or say the wrong thing, or to be accused of being institutionally racist.

Furthermore, whilst men and women are working side by side to promote gender equality, the equivalent does not seem to be happening to the same extent with race. The combined effort of men and women, with all acknowledging the need for change, has been crucial to the advancement of gender equality. For a step change in race equality to take place, the imbalance in advantage also needs to be acknowledged and owned by all.

Professor Beer rightly acknowledges the commitment of 26 universities to sign up to the new Race Equality Charter Mark (and it’s pleasing that Staffordshire University is in this group). She also refers to new ECU research which shows that

in a survey of 1201 academics working in the UK and overseas,  BME academics are significantly more likely to consider moving overseas in the hopes of furthering their careers than white academics.The research aims to highlight the differences between ethnicities when considering a move overseas and understand why these differences occur as well as establish what higher education institutions can do to retain staff or entice them back to the UK once they have left.

The interesting linkage for me in both the lack of a  diverse demographic of senior staff as well as a tendency to seek advancement overseas, is the  impact that this might have on our students.

At our own Learning and Teaching conference in 2014 Winston Morgan clearly showed the importance of having a teaching body that provides some reflection of the student body as part of of tackling the attainment gap of undergraduate students. By having a more diverse staff profile  at all levels and in all roles of the organisation might mean that all students can see more clearly that university is for people like them.