BME staff less likely to hold top university jobs

Analysis of HESA data by the Universities and College Union has revealed a 14% pay gap between white and black academics

Black and minority ethnic (BME) university staff are less likely to hold senior jobs and are paid less than their white colleagues, analysis by the University and College Union (UCU) suggests.

According to the 2017/18 Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) staff record, there is a 9% pay gap between BME and white staff working in universities. The gap in average earnings is bigger for academic staff and represents a 14% difference in take-home pay.

The statistics show that, on average, a white academic earns £49,000 a year and a black academic takes home £42,000. One in nine white academics are professors, compared to one in 33 BME academics.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said the findings “lift the lid” on racial disparity in universities.

In a statement, Ms Grady said: “If you are a black academic then there is just a one in 33 chance you’ll be a professor, compared to one in nine for your white peers. It is going to take systematic change and some difficult conversations if we are going to make any headway. Universities need to work with us to address the issue and recognise that they will need to transform their practices to implement real change for BME staff.”

Read more: Hate crime: funding is holding back university progress, report concludes

HESA’s latest survey reported that 93% of professors are white, 2% are black and 4% are Asian. In total, 86% of all university staff are white, 3% are black and 8% are Asian.

Most universities claim to espouse diversity and internationalisation, yet, beneath the glossy brochures and snazzy websites, they remain bastions of white privilege
– Prof Gurnam Singh, Coventry University

Prof Gurnam Singh, associate professor of equity of attainment at Coventry University, said: “For many black academics there is nothing surprising in these findings, which further shine light on the endemic levels of institutional racism within UK higher education.

“Most universities claim to espouse diversity and internationalisation, yet, beneath the glossy brochures and snazzy websites, they remain bastions of white privilege.

“Because of the high levels of nepotism within the sector, this inequity is unlikely to solved without radical change. Accordingly, funding for universities should be directly linked to equity and there should be significant penalties for those that fail to meet what is after all is a legal and moral duty.”

Particular ethnicities within the multi-ethnic group are less likely to hold senior roles than others.

For example, 2.6% of professors are Chinese and 2.3% of professors are Asian/Asian British Indian, but only 0.2% are black British Caribbean and only 0.4% are British Pakistani.

A recent Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) report on racial inequality called for more universities to join the Race Equality Charter. Only one third of universities have applied to join the charter since it was launched three years ago.

Hugo Dale-Rivas, policy officer at Hepi and editor of the report, said on its release: “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 Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) welcomed the union’s comments. Last year, UCEA published an investigation that looked at the impact of ethnicity and gender on pay for both academic and professional services staff.

A spokesperson for UCEA said: “The sector’s Race Equality Charter will play an important role in addressing these issues. Hepi highlights the need for strong leadership, cultures that enable honest conversations about race and racism and the importance of developing racially diverse and inclusive environments. Importantly, the role of evidence and understanding what works is emphasised and UCEA will continue to work with its members in this area.”

UCEA added that, as part of its 2019/20 pay offer, employers proposed working with HE unions to better understand better the race pay gap.


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