It’s a generation thing

July 2, 2015

The proportion of academic posts held by those who are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds is reported as “dropping away” with respect to leadership and more senior positions (“In the minority: academics from BME backgrounds squeezed out at the top”, News, 25 June). The cited difference between the proportion who are professors (7 per cent), lecturers/senior lecturers (8-9 per cent) or in leadership positions (6 per cent) is, however, very small. In practice, in comparison with junior levels, it would be expected that a lower proportion of the most senior posts are occupied by those who are BME.

The ethnic make-up of the UK population has changed markedly over recent decades, the proportion of those who are BME being much lower at the time that academics of my generation entered the profession than at present. One cannot take the overall ethnic mix of the UK in 2015 and extrapolate that profile across all age groups and levels of seniority. It should not be at all surprising if the profile of those in leadership positions relates more to the population as it was at the time that such individuals entered academia, or indeed any other profession. The positive message is that as the ethnic make-up of the UK changes so does that of academic staff – although, this is not to suggest that the sector has been without discrimination.

Paul Trayhurn
Professorial research fellow
University of Buckingham

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