Academe has poor record on ethnicity

October 22, 2004

Ethnic minorities are seriously underrepresented in higher education, with some subjects registering no ethnic-minority professors and less than a handful of senior staff, according to a Times Higher survey.

The survey, which breaks down ethnic minorities into home and overseas staff, found that: nBritish people with Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds make up 1.9 per cent of the population but 0.4 per cent of academia nBritish Indians make up 1.7 per cent of the population but 1 per cent of academics nBritish blacks - defined as those from African roots - make up 2.0 per cent of the population but 0.8 per cent of academia.

Overall, 38 professors - from the UK and overseas - declared themselves as black in returns to the Higher Education Statistics Agency in 2002-03.

Some subjects are overwhelmingly dominated by white staff. Out of 74 academics in archaeology, two senior staff are from ethnic minorities.

Again, it is not known they are from home or overseas. There are no ethnic-minority professors.

Other subjects fare better, with clinical medicine having 86 ethnic-minority professors out of 1,742.

But the figures come with a note of caution, as large numbers of academic staff choose not to declare their ethnicity.

A survey for the Association of University Teachers reports similar findings with regard to ethnic-minority representation in higher education.

Stephen Court, the AUT's senior researcher, said: "We found that in 2002-03 one in ten academic staff refused to give this information to Hesa. This also varied enormously across job grades."

The AUT survey The Unequal Academy found that in new universities in 2002-03 the proportion of white academics increased with seniority of grade, rising from 88 per cent at lecturer grade to 94 per cent at heads of department level.

In old universities, again, the proportion of whites rose with seniority.

Some 82 per cent of those in the most junior lecturing grade were white and 89 per cent of professors.

The AUT survey confirms that in UK higher education a large proportion of those declaring ethnic-minority origin are from overseas. While 83 per cent of whites had UK nationality, 53 per cent of black academics and 38 per cent of Asian academics were UK citizens.

Mr Court said: "The hope is that the changes currently being made to the Hesa staff record will improve the information available."

claire.sanders@thes.co.uk

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