Diversity in academia

Academics are using the Organise platform to ask thousands of colleagues about their experiences of racism at universities. Staff from universities across the country shared their thoughts. Here are a few examples of what university staff said:

What is the diversity like in your department? Why do you think this is?

“There is very little diversity in terms of ethnicity. The reason is--like everywhere else in our society--institutional racism and ignorance of what is required to achieve true equality. It is an issue for us--we want to diversify, but how to do so is not straightforward. It requires active encouragement of non-white applicants in any recruitment round, for example, and it will also require recruitment equalities training and -implementation.” - Academic from the University of Sussex

“Not very ethnically diverse among senior staff, but much better among postdocs and grad students. I think this is because it is now very difficult to get to these senior positions, and the people who are in them are from a time when diversity was not a priority (and it was much easier to move up).” - Academic from the University of Durham

“There is not much diversity in terms of the make-up of the employees but this is improving. What is not improving is the ability of the department to deal with that diversity to ensure that there isn't discrimination. Discrimination- racial, gender etc is commonplace. Staff turn over among people of ethnic minority background is much higher than the white majority- they do not last long” - Academic from the University of York

If you were in charge of diversity at your university, what's the first change you would make to improve things?

“Anonymise the hiring processes, where the hiring team knows nothing but the candidate’s qualifications and interviews will be held in a way where the interviewee and interviewers don’t face each other.” - Academic from the University of Lancaster

“I would implement a training programme first. The awareness is often just not there. People are willing, or think they area, to diversify and be inclusive, but they often don't perceive the barriers in the way of hiring BAME colleagues nor of the barriers that stop people from a BAME background from applying in the first place. And the whiter this university remains, the higher that barrier gets.” - Academic from the University of Sussex

“Have a nominated academic on every selection panel and every promotions panel charged with monitoring bias and improving diversity” - Academic from UCL

Here are some of the other comments made by academics on racism at university:

“Overall we need a more diverse university, white able-bodied middle-class academics and staff does not reflect the diversity of our students and as we move towards a more global education system our staff should reflect the diversity in students we hope to attract.” - Academic from the University of Liverpool

“What I have learned from previous changes in the make-up of University staffing, such as gender equality, is that the discriminatory practice is often not overt and that most people remain unaware of the mechanisms of discrimination, as long as they are not overtly racist or sexist (in their language for example). That makes it both endemic and insidious. Awareness raising, also in oneself, is an on-going process and white people should be doing it all the time. “ - Academic from the University of Sussex

If some of these experiences sound similar to your workplace and you want to confidentially start a campaign to change things, you can do it here: https://www.organise.org.uk/start-a-campaign/

The Organise team can help you every step of the way.