Increasing evidence suggests that British universities have made very little progress when it comes to employing professors from black and minority ethnic groups (BME).
A BBC Freedom of Information Request to 22 Russell Group universities has shown that 86% of their academic staff are white. The combination of racial and gender inequalities means that black females are rarely represented in academia; statistics collected by Advance HE reveal that out of 19,000 professors working at various universities in the academic year 2016/17, only 25 of them were black females.
Olivette Otele, the UK’s first black female history professor, says she hopes she’s not “the only one” for long. “I think the structural barriers prevent people who look like me and from other ethnic backgrounds from reaching the ladder and achieving certain things”, she says. The Royal Historical Society has revealed that fewer than one in 100 current history professors in the UK is from a black background.
“UK academia is very hard in general for anybody,” says Professor Otele of Bath Spa University, “but even harder for people of other backgrounds. Historians are a very close-knit group. It’s not surprising that there’s only two of us; first a black man who was appointed two years ago and now me.”
The Royal Historical Society additionally suggested that almost one in three BME historians working in higher education have been directly discriminated against or abused based on their race or ethnicity.
The BBC Freedom of Information Request to 22 Russell Group universities also revealed a considerable pay gap between academics from different ethnic groups. The average salary was revealed to be £52,000 for white academics compared to £38,000 for black academics.
The lack of diversity has a direct impact on the quality of teaching, learning and research in the UK. For the education system to improve, diversity and inclusion is necessary. Racial, ethnic and gender inequality are pressing issues and need to tackled in the right way. This is something that Otele is campaigning for and her words give us hope: “I want to show women who look like me that it can be done. I’m not super human.”
Last modified: 12th February 2019