Women and ethnic minorities advance slowly in UK universities

Percentage of BAME and female professors has gone up but ‘there is still a long way to go’, Advance HE report shows

September 25, 2019
Woman walking

UK universities have reported small increases in the proportion of professors who are female and from ethnic minorities, but still have a long way to go, according to new analysis.

The proportion of professors who are female increased from 24.6 per cent in 2016-17 to 25.5 per cent in 2017-18, while the proportion from ethnic minorities grew from 8.3 per cent to 8.8 per cent over the same period, Advance HE said.

Among students, the attainment gap between white and black first-time undergraduates fell from 24.1 to 23.4 percentage points, and 74.7 per cent of disabled first-time undergraduates received a first or a 2:1, an increase of 2.9 percentage points since 2015-16.

However, the incremental changes show that there is still a long way to go, according to Gary Loke, director of knowledge, innovation and delivery at Advance HE.

Professors, for example, are still overwhelmingly white (91.2 per cent), male (74.5 per cent) and non-disabled (96.8 per cent).

Overall, of UK staff with known ethnicity, only 9.8 per cent identified as being black, Asian, or ethnic minority. The report also showed that a higher proportion of BAME staff were on fixed-term contracts: 31.5 per cent of UK national staff and 50.5 per cent of non-UK staff, compared with 27.8 per cent and 38.7 per cent respectively for white staff.

The proportion of heads of institution who are female rose slightly from 24.3 per cent in 2016-17 to 25.9 per cent in 2017-18. The proportion of BAME staff at the deputy or pro vice-chancellor level also rose marginally from 3.5 per cent to 3.8 per cent in 2017-18. The proportion of disabled staff at this level dropped from 2.7 per cent to 2 per cent.

The proportion of students who identified as BAME was 23.9 per cent in 2017-18, an increase from 22.7 per cent in 2016-17. BAME students were well represented in the science subjects – 26 per cent of science, engineering and technology first-degree undergraduates were BAME – but less so in non-science and engineering subjects. They represented just 11.7 per cent of historical and philosophical studies students. However, this was a slight increase from 11 per cent the previous year.  

BAME students only made up 16.9 per cent of research postgraduates but were better represented (26.3 per cent) as taught postgraduates.

Mr Loke said the report showed that “there is a great deal of work, determination and indeed success across the sector in promoting EDI [equality, diversity and inclusiveness], although the data in these reports show we still have a long way to go.

“It’s vital that we use this evidence about staff and student identity characteristics to help inform change and to advance the progress in making our sector representative and inclusive.”


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