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90% of black staff at UK’s colleges and universities ‘facing barriers to promotion’

One survey respondent describes colleagues using racist language 'and it going unchallenged'

Aftab Ali
Student Editor
Monday 08 February 2016 13:06 GMT
(Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Ninety per cent of black staff members in further and higher education have described facing barriers to promotion in colleges and universities, according to a new report.

The findings from the University and College Union (UCU) - the UK’s largest trade union which represents over 100,000 academic professionals - also showed 71 per cent of the 631 respondents highlight being either “often” or “sometimes” bullied and harassed by managers.

Other key results drawn from the report have shown how half of respondents across both sectors did not agree they had been fully informed of the process of applying for promotion, with almost 60 per cent reporting how senior colleagues and managers had not supported them in seeking to progress their career.

One higher education lecturer told the survey: “I believe the university to which I belong is institutionally racist in that there are virtually no black people in senior management roles,” while another described colleagues using racist language “and it going unchallenged.”

Just over half (52 per cent) did not see a “positive future” for their career with their current employer, and almost 80 per cent described being excluded from decision-making processes, with one reader in higher education describing being “a token person” in committees, but “not enabling you to be part of the leadership,” adding the comment: “Dismissive attitudes and derisive comments about your leadership or management.”

Read the full UCU report:

The report has been released ahead of a national day of action against racism in the workplace which - organised by the UCU - will take place on Wednesday. The day will see union branches hold events in places of work, encouraging members to share their experiences and a film will also be released, documenting the experiences of black staff members.

The UCU has now called on colleges and universities to sit up and take more action to ensure racism and discrimination within the workplace is tackled. Sally Hunt, general secretary, described how too many institutions - “be it through caution or complacency about discrimination and racism” - are not making enough if an attempt to monitor or investigate teachers’ and lecturers’ experiences.

She said: “They are well aware black staff are dramatically underrepresented at higher levels but, for too long, they have let it slip under the radar.

“People want leaders within the sector to take a more proactive role, and I include UCU in that task. All institutions must be prepared to radically examine their structures, policies, and procedures, and make changes.”

Having identified problems in the workplace, though, the report has suggested ways in which the aforementioned issues can be overcome, including “effective sanctions against perpetrators” being the most highlighted solution by respondents.

The next most-suggested one was “improved support for black staff“, followed by “training for senior staff.” The least-effective measure was said to be “the formation of a black staff group.”

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