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Only 1 in 14 professors are from BME

23rd Feb 2013

By Aishah Ali

Only one in five professors are women despite making up almost half the non-professorial academic staff in UK educational institutions, a recent report highlighted. For ethnic minorities the gap was larger as it showed that just one in fourteen professors are from a black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. It found that white applicants are three times more likely to be successful in securing a professorial role as their BME colleagues.

The report warns that if the representation stays at the current pace of change, it would take almost 40 years (38.8) for the proportion of female professors to reach the same level as the proportion of male staff in universities and almost 16 years (15.8) for black and minority ethnic staff.

‘The Position of Women and Black and Minority Ethnic Staff in Professional Roles in UK, a High Educational Institutions’ report published by the University and College London in January, began to research and identify aspects of professoriate staff at UK higher educational institutions since 2011.

It shows that BME staff make up 13% of non-professorial academic staff across all UK higher education institutions but only 7.3% of professorial roles. It shows data from particular institutions; the University of Birmingham employs 18.2% BME staff in non-professional grades and 9.1% in profession grades.

The data categorises the under-representation of BME into particular groups showing disparities within it. It shows only 0.4% of the UK professoriate are Black, and only 3.6% of UK Black academic staff are in a professorial position, and only 1.7% of UK professionals are Asian, and 8.7% of UK Asian academic staff are in a professoriate position.

The report also found that white people applying for professorship are far more likely to be shortlisted and appointed than those from BME backgrounds. The data showed that of the 1646 whites applying for a professorship post between 2008-2011, 348 were appointed, compared to 583 BME applying and 41 were selected. This meant that the success rate for whites applying was 21.1% compared with only 7% for BME.

For senior lecturer positions, of the 2742 BME applying 109 secured the post, compared to 3863 whites applying and 456 securing the post. This success rate was only 4% for BME background compared to 11.8% for white applicants.

The report suggested that, “Institutions need to be looking at the representation of different groups of staff amongst the professoriate and identifying any representation gaps.” Once the gaps are identified the report recommends that, “there needs to an analysis of how and why this under-representation exists.” It also suggests that collating and retaining equality data in relation to recruitment and promotion exercises is essential. This can then “help an institution to see whether problems are being caused by lack of applications or lack of success in recruitment or promotion exercises.”

However the researchers felt that collating information during the recruitment process is not the only point of interest, but “institutions also need to be analysing who is leaving, and “whether voluntarily or as a result of institutional initiatives.” It recommended that “any imbalance in those leaving between different groups (men/women,BME/white etc) need to be investigated and appropriate action taken.”


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Sectarianism in the Middle East and its rise in the UK, Standpoint, Sahar TV. Interview 29 May 2013 and aired on 12 June 2013

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