A leader. Greenwich University

April 7, 2000

...this is the tiny proportion of ethnic minority and female professors employed in Britain's universities. Helen Hague reports on how the statistics published today could help in the battle against inequality in higher education.

The University of Greenwich is committed to hiring and promoting more female and ethnic minority staff. In the table (right), it tops the league of universities with a reasonable percentage of ethnic minority professors, and stands 11th in terms of female professors.

Floya Anthias, a Greek Cypriot brought up in England, is a professor in the school of social sciences. As a specialist on race, ethnicity and gender, she is well placed to chart the institution's handling of equality issues.

Anthias joined Thames Polytechnic as a lecturer in 1972, moving up through the ranks, and now heads the sociology team. The department, where 50 per cent of staff are women, has, she says, "a positive culture of traditional equal opportunities". She was a beneficiary in the mid-1970s, when she had her two children 19 months apart. "I went back after maternity leave and department heads were very flexible."

She believes target-setting can help ensure that under-represented staff get a fair deal. But it must be sensitively handled and monitored to avoid the dangers of backlash and tokenism. "It would be counterproductive to appoint people who don't come up to scratch, just to fill quotas."

Babs Chowdhry, professor of biochemistry, joined Greenwich in 1985 as a lecturer. He worked his way through academic grades and was appointed to his current job seven years ago. He was educated in Britain and did his postdoctorate at Yale. He does not think his ethnicity has helped or hindered his career. "There may be discrimination, but on a personal level, I've never come across it. Greenwich nurtures talent; people thrive. The ethos here is meritocratic."

But Greenwich is not complacent. The university's equal opportunities policy has just been bolstered to tackle harassment and discrimination. Equal opportunities are being introduced into all areas of the curriculum and strategies are being developed to address institutional racism.

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