Alison Utley looks at the fall-out from flare-ups in multi-ethnic communities.
Institutional racism is rife in British universities, according to a sociologist researching the problem for the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
Ian Law, director of the centre for ethnicity and racism studies at Leeds University, said: "We know about voluntary segregation in schools but no one seems prepared to admit that we have the very same thing happening in our universities.
"The choice of where to study and the subjects chosen demonstrate this and yet there is a great deal of denial. This is a collective failure and universities urgently need to review their practices."
Dr Law is devising a strategy for tackling institutional racism. "Universities have remained remarkably insulated from policy developments with respect to challenging racism and promoting ethnic and cultural diversity and positive action," he said.
Quality-assurance mechanisms had not tackled it and initiatives to redress the balance were spread unevenly, he said.
Many people from minority ethnic groups were on fixed-term contracts and faced promotion problems. There was also a misfit between minority staff numbers and students.
"Compared with the United States, British universities have been surprisingly silent on issues of positive action," Dr Law said.
"People tend to assume that higher education is a liberal sector but I come across myopia on racism. It is time we owned up to the strong, hostile views on race that can be found almost everywhere."
One outcome of the research is likely to be an aggregated index for measuring institutional racism in universities.