Higher education accused of racism

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UNIVERSITIES ARE discriminating against ethnic minority academics in appointments and promotions, according to the first major study of racism in the higher education job market. Yet many of these establishments see themselves as bastions of liberalism where racism is not a problem, says the Policy Studies Institute report.

More than a quarter of Britain's 6,300 ethnic minority academics say they have experienced discrimination over job applications. Those with nine years service or more are only half as likely as their white peers to be professors.

The report, commissioned by vice-chancellors, unions and higher education funding councils, says Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and black Caribbeans are half as likely to have an academic job as whites. In contrast, Chinese and Africans are better represented than their population size in Britain.

Ethnic minorities account for about six per cent of academic staff, compared with 15 per cent of students, and most are on short-term contracts. The percentage of non-white staff is highest in medical schools.

The report, written by staff at Bristol University, concludes: "There is evidence to indicate that ethnic minority groups experience discrimination in applications for posts and promotions, harassment and negative stereotyping."

Nearly one in five ethnic minority academics had been harassed by staff or students.

But many universities appear not to realise there is a problem. A third do not have racial equality policies. "There was frustration among some ethnic minority staff, not least with the view of their colleagues and employers that higher education institutions were immune from discrimination," the report says. "Moreover, universities and colleges were slow to appreciate the growing multi-ethnic nature of British society and how they needed to adapt to this."

The report says universities should check the progress of ethnic minority staff and set targets for more ethnic minority professors. Those who interview job applicants should also be trained in "how unconscious negative stereotyping can bias decisions".

Paul Mackney, general secretary of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education, said: "Years of good intentions have not been enough. We will be seeking clear targets and published performance indicators to help tackle discrimination."

Sir Herman Ousely, chief executive of the Commission for Racial Equality said: "This report makes uncomfortable reading. Higher education leaders must now demonstrate their resolve to ensure that unfairness and discrimination do not distort their sector by implementing the report's recommendations without delay."

The committee of vice-chancellors said it would pursue a programme to promote racial equality.