UK universities perpetuate institutional racism, racial harassment-Report
London, Nov. 24, 2020 (AltAfrica)-UK universities “perpetuate institutional racism” and vice-chancellors should undergo training to improve racial literacy as part of a sector-wide crackdown, according to a report.
As well as the prevalence of racial harassment on campuses, the report highlights a lack of diversity among senior leaders, the black, Asian and minority ethnic student attainment gap, and ethnicity pay gaps among staff.
The report, Tackling Racial Harassment in Higher Education, comes after an inquiry by the government’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) found that universities were failing to address tens of thousands of racist incidents every year.
Around a quarter of ethnic minority students said they had experienced racial harassment, and the EHRC concluded that many universities were unaware of the scale of the problem and were overconfident in their ability to respond to it.
Universities UK (UUK), which represents 140 institutions in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, has called on senior leaders to admit where there are problems of institutional racism at their institutions and to improve understanding and awareness among staff and students of racism, racial micro-aggressions, white privilege and white allyship.
The Guardian UK reports that the UUK report is part of the sector’s attempts to clean up its act, but while critics welcomed the acknowledgement of institutional racism, they said real action was needed rather than just warm words.
Among the UUK’s recommendations, universities are urged to review current policies and procedures for dealing with racism, and develop new institution-wide strategies for tackling racial harassment. Vice-chancellors are also advised to introduce new reporting systems and to collect and share data on racist incidents, and to engage directly with staff and students who have lived experience of racism.
Prof David Richardson, the vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia and chair of the advisory group that drew up the recommendations, said: “It is my firm belief that UK universities perpetuate institutional racism. This is uncomfortable to acknowledge but all university leaders should do so as a first step towards meaningful change. Too often black, Asian and minority ethnic students and staff have been failed. While they may have heard positive words, they have seen little action. That needs to change now.”
The UUK report comes a week after calls were made for the vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester to resign following an incident of alleged racial profiling. A first-year student said he was accused of “looking like a drug-dealer” by security officers. There have also been allegations of racism at St Andrew’s University this week, where a discrimination and harassment hotline has been set up.
Prof Kalwant Bhopal, who is director of the Centre for Research in Race and Education at the University of Birmingham, said an acknowledgement of structural and institutional racism in higher education was a positive step forward. “However, this must be followed by real actions resulting in change, as well as addressing white privilege.
“Too often we see reports such as this which result in side-stepping addressing racial inequalities under the guise of ‘equality and diversity’. What is needed is a specific focus on race so that it does not get diluted in the equality and diversity discourse.”
Jenny Sherrard, who is head of equalities at the University and College Union, said universities were quick to state their anti-racist credentials. “But we need more than warm words from institutions in order to ensure that our higher education sector is equal and inclusive.”