Universities will have to reveal the full extent of racial inequality on their campuses and set legally binding targets to stamp out discrimination under new race relations laws, writes Phil Baty.
Vice-chancellors and personnel chiefs were told at a conference on the Race Relations Amendment Act this week that they had five weeks to submit binding plans setting out how they would eliminate unlawful discrimination and promote equality of opportunity and good race relations.
By May 31, all public bodies have to publish plans, including audits of staffing levels and targets, to ensure that the proportion of ethnic minority staff and students reflects the proportions in the community at large. The plans will be policed by the Commission for Racial Equality.
Joyce Hill, director of the higher education Equality Challenge Unit, said:
"Some institutions are no doubt in for a shock."
Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that non-white academics make up at least 4 per cent of professors and 5 per cent of senior lecturer grades, compared with 6 per cent of the general labour market. But trade unions said the figures masked deeper problems, with black and Asian staff being clustered at the bottom of pay scales or pushed into insecure contracts.
In a survey of 10,000 members of the Association of University Teachers, almost a third of ethnic-minority staff said they had been victims of racial harassment and nearly a quarter said they had been treated unfairly when applying for jobs and promotions.
"There is a huge incentive for institutions to make sure they come out well when their positions are made public," Professor Hill said. "The CRE will be able to go into institutions and investigate how seriously they are tackling issues. It can issue compliance orders and even go for a judicial review."