Oxford admits lack of minorities at top

August 26, 2005

Oxford University needs to attract more applications from black and ethnic minority candidates for its academic and senior administration posts, an internal investigation has concluded.

Research over the past year by Oxford equal opportunity officers has found that black and ethnic minority staff are underrepresented among those who progress to senior administrative grades.

The resulting report, described by Oxfordas one of the most comprehensive to be produced by a UK university, says a programme of "positive action" to encourage more to apply for such posts is urgently needed.

A similar initiative is already under way to encourage more black and ethnic minority applicants for academic jobs.

Fifteen career-development fellowships for fixed-term research and teaching positions, designed to create a more diverse pool of candidates for academic posts at Oxford, are being advertised. Of the 12 fellowships offered last year, eight were filled by people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Judith Finch, diversity and equal opportunities officer at Oxford, said:

"We would like to see more applications from black and ethnic minority candidates for these posts. But nationally there seem to be no sensible benchmarks for the sector."

Oxford's equal opportunities initiative is hampered by poor-quality data on the ethnic profile of its staff. Future data-gathering will require staff either to state their ethnic group or to say they do not want to provide the information.

The report says students at Oxford from ethnic minorities have much lower dropout rates and a higher chance of finding employment than at most other UK universities.

This is due partly to the high level of one-to-one attention and pastoral support its students receive, it says.

John Hood, the vice-chancellor, said: "Working to remove any real or perceived barriers that might deter people of the highest quality from applying to Oxford, either as staff or students, is very much part of our mission."

Oxford graduate Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the Channel 4 news presenter and journalist, told The Times Higher he felt that Oxford's collegiate system and traditions made it difficult for people from different cultures to fit in.

He said while he never felt race was an issue while he was studying philosophy, politics and economics at Hertford College in the early 1990s, he thought black and ethnic minority students at other colleges faced more problems.

"Oxford is such an old-fashioned stuck-in-its-ways kind of place. You can flounder unless you know how an institution like that functions," he said.

"Because it has this one-to-one tutorial system there is no sense in which you are integrated. My experience was that in the first year most students spent a lot of time wondering why everyone was so miserable."

tony.tysome@thes.co.uk

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