Most ethnic minority staff in higher education face bullying, harassment and racially insensitive comments in the workplace, a new survey suggests.
Around seven out of 10 black and minority ethnic staff working at universities (72 per cent) who responded to a University and College Union poll said they had been subject to bullying and harassment from senior managers.
Just over two-thirds (69 per cent) said they had faced harassment from colleagues and 86 per cent said they experienced culturally insensitive comments either often or sometimes.
One respondent to the poll, which elicited responses from 631 UCU members in post-16 education, said racist language used by staff had “gone unchallenged”.
Other potentially racist behaviours were less overt, according to some of the 446 higher education staff quoted by the UCU in its report, titled The experiences of black and minority ethnic staff in further and higher education, which was published on 4 February.
One university teaching assistant said they were annoyed that it is “assum[ed] that a person with a black face is foreign and not British”, while an associate tutor was annoyed by “consistent and persistent misspelling of my name”.
Most black and minority ethnic staff also took a dim view of the support available to them to progress at their university, the report indicates.
Some 59 per cent said they had not been supported by senior staff when seeking promotion, while 52 per cent said they did not believe their career would develop positively in their current employment.
Nine out of 10 respondents said they had “faced barriers” when seeking promotion, with one lecturer claiming their university was “institutionally racist in that there are virtually no black people in senior management roles”.
Asked to identify how racism in the workplace could be addressed, respondents were most likely to choose “effective sanctions against perpetrators” (68 per cent did), and 61 per cent said more support for ethnic minority staff would also be beneficial.
Sally Hunt, general secretary at UCU, which released the report ahead of a national day of action against racism in the workplace on 10 February, said institutions needed to take a “more proactive role” in this area.
“It’s clear that too many institutions, be it through caution or complacency about discrimination and racism, have not made any structured attempts to monitor or investigate what’s happening on the ground,” Ms Hunt said.
“Of course they are well aware that black staff are dramatically underrepresented at higher levels but for too long they have let it slip under the radar.”