Inquiry lifts the lid on racism

June 22, 2001

There is "clear evidence of institutional racism" in further education colleges, an independent nationwide inquiry has found.

Black people make up a tiny proportion of teaching and support staff in many colleges, including those with predominantly black and ethnic minority students, according to evidence gathered by the Commission for Black Staff in Further Education.

Many of them are subject to racist name-calling and feel discriminated against by their managers. They often find themselves being passed over for promotion in favour of less experienced white colleagues and are regularly the first to lose out if a college restructures.

The commission, backed by the Learning and Skills Council, the Association of Colleges, lecturers' union Natfhe and the Network of Black Managers, is conducting an 18-month inquiry into the position of black staff in further education.

A report summarising findings from an initial survey and witness sessions in colleges says that there are "low levels of understanding of equality issues and insufficiently clear and purposeful strategies for tackling racism" in the sector.

The survey found that black lecturers made up only 3 per cent of the total, and support staff only 5 per cent.

Josephine Ocloo, project director, said: "Most students are unlikely to even see a black lecturer in the course of their studies. We feel that is particularly a problem in some colleges which have a high proportion of black students."

In the report, Michael Peters, who chairs the commission, says: "We have heard accounts of racism and exclusion of staff unsupported by college management and trade unionists and their skills as multifaceted workers unrecognised.

"The net effect of this situation, in which a number of black staff around the country do not feel able to progress or realise their potential, can only contribute to a lack of effectiveness in some colleges."

The commission is expected to report again at a conference in October, and to produce a final report in March next year.

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