Too few black staff in FE

July 5, 2002

An equality watchdog has called for immediate action to tackle institutionalised racism in further education, writes Tony Tysome.

Only four out of 500 colleges have black principals, and black staff make up just 6.9 per cent of the total in FE, a study for the Commission for Black Staff in Further Education has found.

By comparison, 8 per cent of the population of England is from a minority ethnic group, and the proportion of minority ethnic students has grown to 14 per cent.

A report on the findings, published this week, commends further education as "one of the only sectors willing to openly self-examine and address the issues of institutional racism".

But it warns that the further education sector's key role in widening participation and social inclusion demands that it must do more to place equal opportunities as an "indisputable priority".

The report sets an agenda for change, calling for direct and swift action from government departments and agencies, colleges and further education managers. It recommends:

  • The Department for Education and Skills and the Learning and Skills Council should model best race equality practice as an employer
  • The government should provide extra funding to help the sector to develop and deliver race equality in employment, and devise a three-year strategy to implement the commission's recommendations
  • A pilot scheme for the professional development of black staff and for the sector's proposed leadership college to embed race equality in all its activities.

Researchers at the University of North London found that only 15 per cent of colleges set targets for the employment and progression of black staff.

The research also found that black lecturing staff were over-represented in part-time posts, and underrepresented in more secure positions. A disproportionate number were concentrated in the teaching of basic skills and English as a foreign language.

One in 20 colleges does not have an equal opportunities policy and only the same proportion have a specific race equality policy.

Nevertheless, commission chairman Mike Peters said further education had "already done a lot to seize the agenda and to lead the way on challenging racism".

Racism rife in UK universities

British universities are riddled with racism, according to a study to be published later this year, writes Alison Utley.

Author of the study Ian Law, a sociologist from Leeds University, said higher education was remarkably insulated from developments elsewhere in the public sector that aimed to challenge racism and promote ethnic and cultural diversity.

The new Race Relations Act had also had a limited impact in universities, he said, as most of them only made the minimum management changes required to bring them within the law.

The study, funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, found race issues in student admissions, staff recruitment, teaching and assessment often remained "completely untouched".

"The idea that academics in universities are somehow immune to racism is ludicrous," Dr Law said. "But this attitude is part of the problem and perpetuates the myth that racism is absent from universities. We have found it is everywhere in the culture and ethos of universities and in their everyday operations."

The study will be published in full after the summer, but a management "toolkit" for all universities was launched on Wednesday as part of the project. Dr Law said the toolkit would enable institutions to assess the extent of their institutional racism and take steps to overcome it.


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