Education departments ‘less diverse’ than rest of UK sector

BERA report indicates education departments tend to be older and more white, with men in most senior positions

一月 11, 2023
Source: iStock

Staff in UK universities’ education departments are much more “homogenous” than in other disciplines, according to a new report.

The paper found that education departments tend to be older and less racially diverse, with men in more of the senior positions.

Commissioned by the British Educational Research Association (BERA), the study analysed statistical data provided by UK higher education institutions to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) between 2015 and 2020.

It compared staff within education with those across the sector to examine whether the discipline, which “often extols ideals of equality”, can follow through on its principles.

Principal investigator Dina Belluigi, reader in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast, told Times Higher Education that it is important for there to be equality within education departments.

“Higher education has such a big role in terms of the sustainable development goals that inequalities within the discipline at a higher education level has really big ramifications for the UK’s role in addressing global inequalities,” she said.

Her research found that 85 per cent of education staff were white and 8 per cent BAME, compared to 75 per cent white and 16.5 per cent BAME across the sector as a whole.

The paper highlighted another concern that BAME staff were much more likely to cite resignation as a reason for leaving higher education than their white colleagues.

Recent increases in ethnic minority staff were found to be mainly at junior level, while the disproportionate lack of progression for staff from the Global South “indicated problematic conditions”.

The percentage of staff employed from low-income countries in education was so small that it was rounded to zero.

“Education is a much more homogenous discipline than what you see across the rest of the sector,” said Dr Belluigi.

“When you look at that altogether it suggests that it’s not a favourable place for addressing inequality or allowing for space for heterogeneity.”

She said it was hard to tell from the data, but that it is possible that Brexit and the UK Home Office’s “hostile environment” policy may have played a role in reducing equality of nationality.

Women outnumbered men in education, but the report found indications that male staff were at an advantage; more of them were employed in senior positions, while women tended to have a shorter career duration at senior level.

Education academics also tend to be older than those across the rest of UK higher education – with the largest proportion of staff aged between 46 and 60.

Dr Belluigi hoped the findings can be used by practitioners, but warned that while directives such as the Race Equality Charter and Athena Swan Charter were “steps in the right direction” not enough was currently being done on equality.



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