Skip to content

University of Bradford’s Vice-Chancellor part of national ‘diversity in higher education’ debate


Poster for Guardian event asking 'How can we tackle diversity in HE?'

National debate will kickstart deeper conversations

The University of Bradford’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon has been invited to take part in a national debate discussing diversity in higher education.

She will form part of a panel of experts hosted by The Guardian newspaper which will discuss ways of increasing the proportion of senior BME staff in universities.

Professor Congdon said: “I am pleased to be involved in this important debate. Underrepresentation of racially minoritised groups in higher education is long standing, reflecting structural inequalities. In my university I have reaffirmed and committed to utilising structural and intersectional approaches to dismantling engrained inequalities and rebuilding through real, impactful and sustained change.”

Cultural barriers

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) suggest that British universities are makinglong s slow progress in promoting black, minority and ethnic (BME) staff to senior positions.

Hesa found that most universities employed between zero and two black professors in 2018/19. The following year, the agency noted that when it came to academic “managers, directors and senior officials” in higher education, just 20 were Asian compared with 435 who were white.

Hesa data also suggests that just 0.7% of professors, and 0.9% of other senior academics, in 2019/20 were black.

In 2016, the Race Equality Charter was launched, whose framework aims to help universities identify institutional and cultural barriers standing in the way of BME staff and students. But significant change in senior roles is yet to be achieved.

Bringing about change

To explore this in depth, The Guardian event, paid for by GatenbySanderson, will ask how we can tackle the lack of diversity at the top of higher education. The event will debate why BME staff are underrepresented in senior roles at universities and what can be done to change this.

The panel discussion will take place on Wednesday 28 April from 1pm to 2.15pm.  Audience members will be invited to ask questions.

Issues under discussion will include:-

  • What barriers do BAME staff experience with career progression?
  • How should recruitment processes be reformed?
  • Are there diversity initiatives that have been successful at particular universities?
  • How can these be replicated at other institutions?
  • What other measures should universities implement to bring about change?

The panel will be chaired by Coco Khan, commissioning editor at Guardian B2B and include guests: Professor Congdon, Professor Kalwant Bhopal, director of the Centre for Research in Race and Education at the University of Birmingham, Professor Charles Egbu, vice-chancellor at Leeds Trinity University and Dr Michael Spence, president and provost at University College London.