Time for some cultural exchange

August 26, 2005

Colour and cultural differences continue to cause problems for black and ethnic minority staff and students at Oxford University despite its efforts to improve race relations, according to the Reverend Margaret Yee (pictured), chaplain of Nuffield College.

She is an Australian-born Chinese woman who has been at Oxford for 24 years, but admits she has never suffered prejudice herself.

According to Dr Yee, the traditional outlook of many colleges is not always conducive to "open, respectful academic exchange" between people of different races and cultures.

She said: "Some people might call it prejudice, but it is more subtle than that, because it is something that is embedded in our culture. The impact of colour and race can be a very subconscious thing."

Students were more likely to be affected in their personal life than in their work, she said.

"It is a cultural thing that is exacerbated by differences, and colour is one of the differences people notice first. Even here, in a college that is so global and progressive, it is something we need to address," she added.

Dr Yee said she hoped to set up a programme called World Citizens, involving the exchange of top academics between 15 European universities, as well as conferences and seminars.

She explained: "We are trying to create an ethos that will encourage everyone to look at inquiry and research from the perspective of the bigger picture of global cultures and beliefs."

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