‘Money screams’

Pro­fes­sor’s shout-out for racial par­ity

THE (Times Higher Education) - - CONTENTS - So­phie.inge@timeshigh­ere­d­u­ca­tion.com

Uni­ver­si­ties should lose fund­ing if they fail to tackle racial in­equal­ity, a lead­ing aca­demic has ar­gued.

Kal­want Bhopal (pic­tured be­low), pro­fes­sor of ed­u­ca­tion and so­cial jus­tice at the Univer­sity of Birm­ing­ham, said that cur­rent UK-based ini­tia­tives such as the Equal­ity Chal­lenge Unit’s Race Equal­ity Char­ter lacked im­pact.

To suc­ceed, the char­ter – which pro­motes eth­nic di­ver­sity in higher ed­u­ca­tion – should be linked to fund­ing, she told an event or­gan­ised by the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Pol­icy In­sti­tute and the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Academy.

It was “hugely dis­ap­point­ing” that only 21 in­sti­tu­tions had ap­plied for the char­ter mark, and that just nine had achieved it, Pro­fes­sor Bhopal said.

“Uni­ver­si­ties should ex­plain how they have ad­dressed is­sues of in­equal­ity,” Pro­fes­sor Bhopal said. “And if they haven’t done that, they should not be al­lowed to re­ceive fund­ing.”

Pro­fes­sor Bhopal said that the suc­cess of link­ing charters to fund­ing was proved when the Na­tional In­sti­tute for Health Re­search linked med­i­cal re­search fund­ing to achiev­ing a sil­ver Athena SWAN award, which was es­tab­lished by the ECU to ad­vance the ca­reers of women in sci­ence, tech­nol­ogy, en­gi­neer­ing and math­e­mat­ics sub­jects.

“When this was an­nounced, the num­ber of ap­pli­ca­tions for the Athena SWAN award in­creased by 400 per cent within that same week,” Pro­fes­sor Bhopal said. “So money doesn’t talk – money screams.”

Nev­er­the­less, Pro­fes­sor Bhopal ar­gued, the main ben­e­fi­cia­ries of ini­tia­tives launched as a re­sult of the Athena SWAN scheme had been white, mid­dle- class women, as op­posed to those from eth­nic mi­nori­ties.

ECU re­search re­leased last year found that UK higher ed­u­ca­tion was be­com­ing more eth­ni­cally di­verse, but that eth­nic mi­nor­ity staff were less likely than their white col­leagues to be on per­ma­nent con­tracts, in se­nior po­si­tions, or on higher salary bands.

Pro­fes­sor Bhopal sug­gested the use of quo­tas to en­sure that eth­nic mi­nor­ity staff were rep­re­sented in se­nior roles, and she also ad­vo­cated the in­tro­duc­tion of manda­tory un­con­scious bias train­ing in all uni­ver­si­ties.

Eth­nic mi­nor­ity aca­demics should also be pro­vided with sup­port such as networking, men­tor­ing and train­ing to al­low them to make the most of ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties, she said.

Ad­dress­ing the ques­tion posed in the sem­i­nar’s ti­tle, “Do uni­ver­si­ties re­flect so­ci­ety enough?”, Pro­fes­sor Bhopal con­cluded: “Higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tions do not rep­re­sent the com­mu­ni­ties that we serve. A fail­ure to ac­knowl­edge racism and a fail­ure to ac­knowl­edge white priv­i­lege re­sults in a fail­ure to act.”

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