Reading lists ‘dominated’ by white European men

A study led by academics at UCL analysed university reading lists and said they did not contain enough female and BAME authors

University reading lists are dominated by white, male and Eurocentric viewpoints, a new study from UCL has said.

The study analysed 144 authors of social science papers and 146 authors of science papers included in two university reading lists.

Researchers found only 7% of reviewed social science authors were BAME and only 30% of reviewed science authors were female.

The reading lists “were not representative of the student population”, the report concluded.

The report’s co-author, Dr Karen Schucan Bird from the UCL Institute of Education, called on universities to “develop coherent and consistent strategies” to tackle racial and gender disparity.

Universities also need to engage in discussions about what a ‘diverse, inclusive, decolonised’ reading list actually looks like – Dr Karen Schucan Bird, UCL

Dr Schucan Bird said: “Universities also need to engage in discussions about what a ‘diverse, inclusive, decolonised’ reading list actually looks like, engaging with both staff and students to ensure clarity and commitment from all.”

Read more: Make research grants conditional on tackling racial inequality – Hepi

A breakdown of female and BAME representation for different subjects is not collected comprehensively, so it is hard to conclusively support the report’s conclusion. However, according to Hesa, two-thirds of social science students are female. The report compiles multiple measures to conclude that around one in four social science students in higher education are BAME.

The report also found that 99% of reviewed social science authors were affiliated to European, North American or Australasian universities. The report says around 69% of social science postgraduates are non-European.

“Away from universities themselves, there are wider structural barriers and inequalities in knowledge production. Academic publishing needs to acknowledge their part in promoting viewpoints from the ‘Global North’ and introduce initiatives to help bring marginalised perspectives into the mainstream of academic thought,” Dr Schucan Bird said.

Earlier this year, a chapter in a report from the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) said History academics in higher education had a responsibility to acknowledge “overtly and ‘casually’ racist behaviours animate the experience of History teaching and learning in schools and universities”. The chapter’s author, Prof Margot Finn, president of the Royal Historical Society, encouraged senior academics not to “mistake exclusivity for excellence”.

Read more: BME staff less likely to hold top university jobs


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