Low proportion of Black people in Senior Management Positions in Higher Education

Back to all Motions

2014 Higher Education Service Group Conference
8 November 2013
Carried as Amended

Conference notes that in the UK there are 168 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). Research conducted by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) reports that Black people represents 8.6 per cent of higher education academic staff and 6.9 per cent of professional support staff.

Conference is aware that in the UK the Higher Education context has changed in the last ten years. For example, in 2003 the focuses Higher Education were on the following:


b)new providers were no threat; and

c)universities had positive images.

Whereas now:

i)it is about survival

ii)new providers are a threat (Further education (FE), Private, overseas)

iii)funding has severely reduced in the last three years

iv)the government is more critical.

Conference notes that with the pace of change in HEIs, Vice-Chancellors seek the need for change through tough leadership challenges at every level, with many opportunities to be delivered by the Leadership Foundation in Higher Education.

Examples are in the following:

1)The business model


3)Competition and collaboration


5)Consumer Demand


7)Equality & Diversity, and


Conference is therefore extremely alarmed to note that although there are 168 HEIs there are only two Black Vice-Chancellors in the UK, Professor Gerald Pillary, Vice-Chancellor at Liverpool Hope University, appointed in 2008 and the recently appointed Mr Rama Thirunamachandran, the next Vice-Chancellor of Canterbury Christ Church University, who will take up his post on 1 October 2013.

Conferences notes that the proportion of UK national Black staff is lower in managerial and professional jobs compared with technical and administrative jobs (5.6 per cent, compared with 8.1 and 7.7 per cent, respectively). This is despite the fact that some Russell Group universities with the highest participation rates for Black students (are London based institutions, such as University College London (UCL), the London School of Economics (LSE), Kings College London (KCL) and Imperial College. Among the UK universities, 11 have Black student populations of 50 per cent or greater, and these universities are located in the Greater London area.

Research conducted by the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) found significant disparities between commitments made publicly by institutions in policies and the realities for Black staff. Policies aren’t always applied at department level, with individual managers influencing workload, responsibilities, recruitment and promotion – a situation ripe for unequal treatment and favouritism.

Conference is aware that the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, under the auspices of Vince Cable and David Willetts has written to Tim Melville-Ross CBE, Chair of Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) highlighting the fact that its equality and diversity schemes identify achievements for example:

A)To promote equality and diversity and to advance equality opportunities

B)To support and promote a positive approach to equality and diversity in the sector

C)To support the sector in achieving a diverse and representative HE workforce

D)To seek to promote equality and diversity and to advance equality of opportunity.

However, they also stated ‘it needs to address the insufficient diversity of institutional governing bodies and the relatively low proportions of women and Black and disabled women in senior management positions’.

Conference believes that whilst the union has made great strides in challenging racism in the workplace, we should now broaden its activity to address the more subtle issues of Black staff inequality.

Conference therefore calls upon the Higher Education Service Group Executive to work with the National Executive Council and the National Black Members Committee to:

I)Undertake political campaigning by lobbying government, funding councils and employers to focus on and address the unchanged ethnic gradient

II)Developing tools for branches to help identify the more subtle issues around race and the ingrained inequality that exists across the Higher Education sector which is blocking the upward movement of Black workers

III)Work in partnership with other organisation that have a common purpose, including Universities Colleges Employer Agency (UCEA), Universities UK, the funding councils, Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and Equality Challenge Unit to challenge employers and promote good practice

IV)Lobby Higher Education organisations to carry out pre and post assessments of recruitment activity to evaluate the success of Black applicants and revise processes which may discriminate

V)Challenge employers to set clear targets for recruitment of Black workers, in particular Black women aiming for senior management posts, and support schemes to improve confidence and development of key skills.