Minority report

December 6, 2012

The attainment gap between white and black and minority ethnic (BME) students ("Mind, don't dismiss, the BME attainment gap", News, 22 November) is of great concern but sadly not a huge surprise. Inequality is rife in the sector and affects staff as well as students.

A report to be published this month by the University and College Union, The Position of Women and BME Staff in Professorial Roles in UK HEIs, details the under-representation of women and BME professorial staff in higher education institutions and the gender and race gaps that exist.

It reveals that women make up nearly half (46.8 per cent) of non-professorial academic staff in UK higher education institutions, yet they make up less than 20 per cent (19.8 per cent) of the professoriate, and BME academic staff make up 13 per cent of non-professorial academic posts, yet only 7.3 per cent of professorial roles. On average, female professors earn 6.3 per cent (£4,828) less than their male counterparts and, on average, black professors earn 9.4 per cent (£7,147) less than their white counterparts.

The conditions that allow these inequalities to persist among staff are the same ones that leave BME students at a disadvantage in our higher education institutions. We acknowledge that some institutions are making efforts to address these issues, but we are calling on the whole sector to work with us and seriously engage in tackling these problems.

Sally Hunt, General secretary, University and College Union

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