THE FIRST major study of equal opportunities for academic staff, charged with putting an end to racial discrimination in British higher education, has been commissioned by an all-embracing consortium of the funding councils, vice-chancellors and lecturers' leaders.
The project, coordinated by the Commission for Racial Equality, seeks to "push out the boundaries of accountability".
It follows criticism in the Dearing report on higher education that ethnic minorities are "significantly under-represented among higher education staff" and that "such inequalities run counter to the claimed values of higher education".
Latest findings from the Higher Education Statistics Agency reveal that 92.4 per cent of full-time academic staff who disclosed their ethnicity were white. Only 0.3 per cent were black Caribbean, only 0.6 per cent were black African, and only 0.01 per cent were Bangladeshi.
Where ethnic minorities were employed in universities, Dearing found that the vast majority were at the bottom end of the pay scale.
Tariq Modood, professor of sociology at Bristol University and the project's lead researcher, said: "Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that ethnic minority academics might be recruited but they will be used below their qualification levels, they will be on fixed term contracts while their white colleagues have permanent contracts, and there will be bias against their promotion."
Joe Charlsworth, a policy adviser at the CRE, said he expected clear policy implications when the research is published in 1999. "We want this to provide the effective stimulus to examine which policies and practices will most favour the development of careers in higher education for ethnic minorities."
The consortium behind the Pounds 25,000 project includes the English and Scottish higher education funding councils, the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals, the Standing Conference of Principals, the Commission on University Career Opportunity, the Association of University Teachers and lecturers' union Natfhe.