Universities reform recruitment to end racial and sexual prejudice

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The Independent Online

Universities are to set targets for recruiting more women and ethnic minority staff for the first time under a ground- breaking deal to end sexual and racial discrimination in higher education.

Universities are to set targets for recruiting more women and ethnic minority staff for the first time under a ground- breaking deal to end sexual and racial discrimination in higher education.

Vice-chancellors have agreed to overhaul recruitment and promotion procedures after a string of surveys showed widespread differences in pay between men and women and between black academics and their white counterparts.

Employers and leaders of the universities' teaching and support staff are due to finalise the deal later this week after months of bargaining. A draft agreement, seen by The Independent, makes clear that universities will not draw up formal quotas for black or women staff, but union leaders expect vice-chancellors to ensure that their staff reflects the make up of the population as a whole.

Targets will be set for each university and will also include action to redress pay differentials and work on equal opportunities policies. Under the agreement, senior university staff will be given retraining in employment law, promotion and career management.

A new monitoring group, to be set up by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, will track progress towards the targets, and commission research into equal opportunities.

But the agreement makes no mention of the extra money, estimated at anything between £200m and £400m, required to remove pay differentials.

Pay and promotion discrimination has been condemned after studies revealed the small number of women and black professors and the gulf in pay between different groups. The Independent revealed last year that women at some universities earned up to £20,000 less than their male colleagues, a trend confirmed earlier this year when a study by the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education established that women were paid substantially less for doing the same job as their male colleagues.

Tom Wilson, head of universities at the association, said: "All the unions jointly negotiated this agreement, which is a genuine step forward. While it has to be formally ratified we are sure that it will help to eliminate sex and race discrimination."

Mr Wilson said that David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, had hinted in a meeting last week that any additional funding for universities from the Government's comprehensive spending review would be linked to improvements in equal opportunities.

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