Responding to the critical need for transparency and action regarding racial inequality in British universities
Evaluating progress in tackling racial inequality, inclusivity, and representation in Higher Education
In response to the critical need for transparency and action regarding racial inequality in British universities, the University of the Arts London (UAL) has published the second edition of the Ethnic Representation Index (ERI). This index provides a more holistic overview of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (B.A.M.E) representation across the sector using data from the 2021-2022 academic year.
The ERI aims to offer a comprehensive evaluation of universities’ efforts to combat racism and promote diversity and inclusion. It was designed to create a consistent methodology and agreed metrics to measure the progress universities are making in tackling racism while examining belonging and inclusion among B.A.M.E students and staff. The ERI was commissioned and co-authored by Professor David Mba, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research, Knowledge Exchange, and Enterprise at UAL (until October 2023).
A 2020 report by Universities UK exposed the stark reality of “institutional racism” within British universities. The report highlighted how complaints about racism had been minimized and ignored, as well as a significant underrepresentation of B.A.M.E individuals among staff and senior leadership positions. This failure to reflect the diversity of the student body prompted universities to commit to addressing these issues. However, the latest ERI report indicates that progress has been slow and uneven.
This year’s interactive ERI includes data on the ethnic composition of both professional services and academic staff. It has also been expanded to include Scottish universities and specialist institutions. The development of the index involved consultation with universities across the UK.
The ERI captures both encouraging improvements and persistent disparities in B.A.M.E representation across universities in England and Scotland. We’ve witnessed positive strides, especially in student enrolment and community engagement, but the road ahead is long. There is still an alarming gap in senior staff representation and awarding disparities, particularly the Black offer rate gap. Only two universities stand in the ‘green’ zone across all categories, indicating that comprehensive change is needed. While some institutions have improved, gradual progress won’t suffice to address the institutional racism identified in 2020. Universities must come together to tackle issues like pay, progression, and attainment, just as they have in improving access. Collaboration is key. We hope the ERI encourages openness and an urgent collective commitment to a more equitable futureProfessor David Mba is Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research, Knowledge Exchange and Enterprise at UAL (until October 2023)
Key findings of the Index for universities in England:
- Roughly a quarter of universities have a B.A.M.E student population of 50% or more, and one-third have over 40% B.A.M.E students.
- At 95% of universities, Black students are less likely to receive offers compared to other applicants with the same entry profiles.
- The access gap ratio (B.A.M.E student representation relative to the local community) is narrow, suggesting students tend to reflect the demographics of local populations and that university access schemes are succeeding.
- The average B.A.M.E representation among academics (18.5%), professors (14.3%), senior managers (8.5%), professional services staff on lower grades (17.3%), governors (13.9%) and executives (7.7%) falls short of average B.A.M.E student representation at undergraduate level (32.9%), postgraduate taught level (25.5%) or postgraduate research level (22.3%)
- The average Black representation among academics (3.3%), professors (1.1%), senior managers (1.2%), professional services staff on lower grades (6%), governors (4%) and executives (1.5%) falls short of average Black student representation at undergraduate level (9.5%), postgraduate taught level (8.4%) and postgraduate research level (7.4%).
- The average ethnicity pay gap is 5.2%1 to the disadvantage of B.A.M.E staff.
- Black and B.A.M.E students report a less positive university experience than White peers, according to National Student Survey (NSS) data.
- Completion rates are 2.4% lower for B.A.M.E students compared to White students and 4.9% lower for Black students.
- The gap in receiving first-class or 2:1 degrees between White and B.A.M.E students averages 12.3% but can exceed 20% at some universities.
- The awarding gap for Black students is even wider, with an average of 19.3% and up to 30% at some institutions.
- The progression gap, measuring differences in professional employment or further study 15 months after graduation, averages 2.9%, but more than 11% of universities have gaps exceeding 10%.
Key findings of the Index for universities in Scotland
For universities in Scotland, the headline findings from this year’s report are as follows:
- B.A.M.E student proportions increase from undergraduate (10.8%) to postgraduate (12.7%) and postgraduate research (16.5%) levels in Scotland, unlike the trend in England.
- In Scotland, B.A.M.E student levels (10.8% undergrad, 12.7% postgrad taught, 16.5% postgrad research) generally align with B.A.M.E academic staff (13.8%) and professors (12.2%) but not with senior management, including senior managers (3.9%) and governors (8%).
- Black student proportions are similar among academic staff (1.9%), professors (1.5%), and governors (2.7%), but Black senior managers account for only 0.2% of the total.
- Like B.A.M.E students, Black student representation increases with academic level, reaching 3.3% in postgraduate teaching and 6.0% in postgraduate research.
- Over half of the 16 Scottish universities indexed exhibit awarding gaps exceeding 10% for B.A.M.E students.
- Eleven out of 16 Scottish universities indexed report awarding gaps of over 11% for Black students.
- The average ethnicity pay gap in Scotland is 1.3%, disadvantaging B.A.M.E staff, significantly lower than England’s 5.6%.