Racism is 'endemic' in sector

March 23, 2001

Higher education is "institutionally racist", according to the United Kingdom's first professor of social justice, writes Phil Baty.

Hull University's Gary Craig said in his inaugural lecture this week that the sector needed its own version of the Macpherson inquiry, the government-commissioned report on racism in the police force. Professor Craig also said that social science, his own discipline, was neglecting race issues to the detriment of the welfare state and education system.

"More than 20 years since high-profile criticisms of admission policies of elite medical schools such as St Thomas's, which effectively debarred minority ethnic candidates, the position in higher education remains a cause for considerable public concern," he said.

Despite the fact that ethnic minorities are overrepresented as students, "they are significantly underrepresented in academic posts, earn significantly less and are significantly less likely to be professors", he said. Some 2.3 per cent of professors are from an ethnic minority, he said. "In some universities, there are no black professors at all." And there are no ethnic minority vice-chancellors.

He said that a third of universities had no racial equality policy. Ethnic minority students completing a law practice course "are only slightly more than half as likely to get a training contract as their white counterparts".

According to the African-Caribbean Network for Science and Technology, he said: "Britain has yet to produce a single black doctor, engineer or scientist born and entirely educated in the UK, a result of racial stereotyping from primary school onwards."

He said the focus on the Metropolitan Police "has effectively allowed other welfare institutions (including universities) to avoid just the examination of their own policies and the outcome of those policies which Macpherson was arguing for... Britain is, I have argued, still a profoundly racist society".

But Professor Craig reserved some of his most stinging criticism for his own academic discipline and colleagues. He had found that only a quarter of undergraduate social policy courses included a "serious examination of the dimension of race". He said researchers were often "unwilling" to incorporate a race dimension into surveys or investigations.

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