Union urges universities to ‘get houses in order’ on race

Figures show Black workers to be under-represented in higher education workforce

University employers need to “get their houses in order” and do more to make sure the higher education workforce properly reflects society, says UNISON.

The call comes after the latest workforce figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that there is still a smaller proportion of Black people working in universities than there are in the general population.

And Black people who do work in higher education tend to be clustered in low-paid jobs.

The figures show that just over 6% of almost 11,000 staff in the highest non-academic roles are Black – and this drops to 4.25% for academic “managers, directors or senior officials”.

The proportions increase as you move down the pay scale. A little more than 14% of people in the lowest-paid jobs – what the HESA calls “elementary occupations” – are Black.

Around 16% in the UK population as a whole are Black.

“The under-representation of Black staff is deeply worrying – especial the lack of senior Black staff in management, which appears now to be the norm in UK universities,” says UNISON head of higher education Donna Rowe-Merriman.

“The figures from HESA show that there are few Black staff in our higher education institutions – and the ones who are there are concentrated in the lowest-paid jobs.

“This is totally unacceptable if we consider ourselves a country open to equality in all occupations and walks of life.

“The figures make unhappy reading,” she adds. “It is important that universities demonstrate a real understanding of the solid business case for equalities.

“There is simply no place for racism in any part of our education system.”

Liz Baptiste, who represents higher education workers on the UNISON NEC, called the figures “shocking,” adding: “Enough is enough – it is time for positive action to achieve change.

“That action should start right now, otherwise the future will remain bleak if we are serious about equality for all.”

UNISON is urging higher education employers, unions, funding councils, students and others to jointly tackle the issue, including bringing in changes through the Higher Education and Research Bill, which is currently in the House of Lords.