Racial inequality in danger of ‘being accepted as fact’, says think tank

The Higher Education Policy Institute has published a report and recommendations on reducing the disparities between black and white students and staff

HIGHER EDUCATION: Baroness Amos co-chaired the report into racial inequality at universities

RACIAL INEQUALITY is in danger of “being accepted as fact” in higher education institutions, a think tank has said.

The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), which today published a report into reducing racial inequalities in the sector, has argued for research grants to be given to universities on the condition that they are participants in the Race Equality Charter, fund new PhD places for black and ethnic minority (BME) candidates; and recognise and reward informal work by BME staff, such as mentoring BME students.

The Race Equality Charter works to improve representation, progression and success of minority ethnic staff and students within higher education.

Hugo Dale-Rivas, Policy Officer at HEPI, who edited the collection of essays that make up the report, said: “Racial inequality is in danger of being an accepted fact in higher education. It is too easy for people to shrug and treat it like someone else’s problem.

“The report shows many things we need to do. For instance, all universities – not just a third as now – should apply for awards with the Race Equality Charter.”

Just 56 institutions have currently signed up to the charter and only 12 have received awards as a result of their work.

Baroness Amos, director of SOAS, University of London, who wrote the foreword in the report, said: “Universities are as much about delivering equality as they are about excellent scholarship and knowledge transfer.”

Amatey Doku, former vice president for higher education at the National Union of Students, co-chaired the report alongside Amos and also contributed an essay – Putting the Burden of Closing Attainment Gaps Off BME Staff and Students.

He highlighted the disparity between students from BME backgrounds and staff and the pressure put upon BME people within universities to resolve issues of racial inequality.

“Some universities are responding positively, but end up putting a disproportionate burden on BME staff and students. Ultimately, it is the institutions themselves that need to fix the problem,” Doku said.

In addition to calling for conditions to be imposed around research grants, HEPI has also recommended implicit bias training is employed proactively to address specific instances in individual organisations and for institutions to appoint senior management diversity champions to ensure changes are made.

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