Institutional racism in British universities

Despite their endorsements of diversity and inclusivity, institutional racism has been a recurring theme throughout British universities. With statistics such as 60 of the UK’s 14,000 professors being black across the entire sector, academics and student organisations have been lobbying for change.

Apart from the racial inequality in the staffing, a central issue to the institutional racism has been identified as the curriculums themselves. It’s been argued that universities produce racism through their overly “white” focuses on Eurocentric narratives. Last year’s Runnymede Trust report found that universities possess a “remarkable resilience to change in terms of curriculum, culture and staffing”.

“Universities produce racism,” Kehinde Andrews, an associate professor at Birmingham City University told The Guardian: “Little has happened to challenge ingrained attitudes and approaches”. In his own discipline, Sociology, Andrews stated that narratives taught as the foundation of the subject is “a collection of dead white men”.

Some argue that Eurocentric curriculums is a given at any British institution that has a British focus, but with the majority of institutions claiming to be diverse, their curriculum should reflect that promise.

Other professors have expressed their concerns. Academics at Cambridge are running a research group on “decolonising the curriculum”, which aims to explore the possibility of changing the structure of universities. Initiatives such as the push for a “Black Studies” degree and the Black British Academics network have strongly recommended changes within the university system.

Institutional racism has not gone unnoticed in the student body. The National Union of Students’ campaign “Why is my curriculum white?” was launched last year, bringing awareness to the lack of ethnic diversity in texts assigned to students.

In May 2016, the campaign put together a series of recommendations and proposed them to the university, with the intention of launching diversity in the curriculum. As The Gryphon reports on page 5, the Vice Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands has admitted that not enough has been done to represent the diversity of the student body.

Jangira Lewis

(Image: The Atlantic)

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