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Less than 1 per cent of professors at UK universities are Black

ByShin Woo Kim

Mar 16, 2020

Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) published data in January showing few UK universities employ more than one or two Black professors and fewer than 1 percent of professors hired by UK universities are Black.

The report shows that although UK universities hire increasingly more staff, they have been slow to hire more Black staff.

In 2018-19, universities employed 217000 academic and 223000 non-academic staff which was an increase of 5000 staff on both, compared with the previous year.

However, only 140 out of a total of more than 21000 identified as Black and almost 18000 professors identified as white. This meant that only 0.7 percent of professors hired by UK universities were Black, and 85% were white.

A majority of UK universities employed between zero and two Black professors.

Although Oxford, Sussex, Manchester and Warwick have Black staff, HESA data shows that in 2018- 2019, no Black staff were hired at senior leadership positions in UK universities.

Only 75 people out of 3600 university governors in England, Wales and Scotland, including staff and non-staff, identified as Black.

In 2018-2019, male professors continued to outnumber female professors by 3:1. Following this trend, only 25 Black women are professors of all UK universities., making up just 0.1 percent of all professors.

Black academics make up only 2% of general academics at UK universities.

Dr Nicola Rollock, a Black female Associate Professor in Equity & Education at Goldsmiths College, University of London, published a report for UCU entitled ‘Staying Power,’ which gives possible reasons to why there may be a lack of Black academics.

The report contains interviews with 20 of the 25 Black female professors about their experiences of higher education.

Although some experiences, such as “huge workloads, the blurring of personal and work lives and an obsession with meeting targets” appeared universal to all academics, the report also revealed extra pressures on Black female academics.

Respondents stated overt and subtle bullying, stereotyping and devising coping mechanisms as difficulties in academia, with one professor claiming that she was introduced by a senior white colleague as a ‘student’ representative.

The report concludes that improvements for Black academics are “not possible unless there is a fundamental shift in how race and racism are understood.” UCU says that: “universities need to rise to the challenge set out in the report not just to ensure support is there for the few Black women who make it to professorial level, but to overhaul their promotion structures so there is genuine equality of opportunity.”

According to Matt Waddup, UCU Head of Policy: “This report tells of a higher education system that is plagued by bullying and stereotyping, and forces Black women to develop strategies just to cope. They don’t feel they can be themselves, yet also feel forced into the role of stereotype and role model.

“We need to look at how to transform a system that Black female professors say is riddled with unfairness and bias. That starts with an overhaul of promotion structures to ensure genuine equality of opportunity.”

Dr Nicola Rollock said: “Institutional statements expressing commitment to equality and diversity lack sincerity in the context of the findings. That these Black female academics have reached professorship despite their experiences of racism, bullying and lack of support reflects their talent and sheer determination to succeed. Ambition should not be thwarted by discrimination.”


Image: Simon Carey via geograph.org.uk

By Shin Woo Kim

Editor-in-Chief Shinwoo (they/them) is a former News Editor. They identify as a Marxist-Leninist, and have written for Voices, News and Opinion and more recently for TV & Film.