Readers' reactions

June 25, 1999

Last week in The THES...

Martin Trow warned that British universities should be wary of positive discrimination to correct racial imbalance

I agree that positive action is not the way forward if we wish to boost the numbers of ethnic minority staff in universities, particularly in more senior positions.

It is tragic that it has taken the publication of the Macpherson report into Stephen Lawrence's death to put this issue so firmly on the agenda. However, we must avoid responding with a knee-jerk reaction, which will create more problems than it solves.

Institutional racism is prevalent not only throughout the educational system, but within British society in general. Affirmative action cannot work, because it treats the symptoms rather than the cause. Quotas not only harden attitudes among those who are disadvantaged, but they are fundamentally unfair.

What we are seeking is equality, not a patronising system that favours minority groups merely because of the colour of their skin.

JILL SCOTT Senior adminastrative officer, Graduate school Staffordshire University

For those of us committed to widening participation, Martin Trow's "warning" has the hollow ring of a reactionary establishment running scared as it faces the prospect of increasing numbers of ethnic minority students doing well. Where next for biological racism?

KAREN ROSS Faculty of education and social sciences Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education

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