Students Staff
University of Essex

November 7, 2015

Not just in October

Filed under: Advice & Support,Networking & Collaboration — Tags: , , , , , — admin @ 1:16 pm
Article by Esther Oluga, Frontrunner Plus

Article by Esther Oluga, Frontrunner Plus

Top three shocking statistics

  1. In 2014 the proportion of UK black staff who were professors was 4%- lower than for any other ethnic group.
  2. 5.8% of UK professors were BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) men and 1.3% women (a gap of 4.5%).[1]
  3. In the University of Essex, only 1% of Professors are Black/Black British.

[1] Source: Statistics from Equality Challenge Unit

Why is this a problem?

It is evident, as you enter the University, that the representation of BME staff in academia is significantly low compared to the growing student population, an issue that is deeply rooted in a Cisgender, white dominated institution where men hold the majority of senior positions.

Despite the fact that we have more black Afro-Caribbean students than staff, black students are still a minority. Currently 17.2 % of students at Essex are Black/Black British.

According to the Equality Challenge Unit, within the 1,507,845 UK student populations, 19.6% are BME, with only 6.3% being Afro-Caribbean.

  • Evidently, there is a major underrepresentation of black people in academia. This is what makes the celebration of Black History more crucial, not only in October but throughout the year; our stories cannot be restricted to October only.
  • The truth is, the lack of representation for black people within academia, means students are not exposed to a vast range of perspectives and experiences. Consequently, even if these stories are written and taught in universities, they tend to be restricted and narrated from one perspective.
  • The recognition of black academics and students in the UK needs to be incorporated into the university culture, as a continuation.  The British culture we have today was contributed to by Afro-Caribbeans and many other ethnic groups and this should not be ignored.

How can you make a change?

A few simple, yet effective actions can be taken by individuals. These small changes by individuals can result in a big change being seen in the community.

Here are a few actions we can take to make a change:

1. Attend events run by the SU

The SU is a safe space for students, but this doesn’t have to create a border between students and staff. Staff can be involved  by  attending such events. A physical presence of staff can be a great message to students showing you care.

Educate yourself- Attending events for black students is a way to educate yourself and become aware of issues affecting the black community.

Here is a link for more information on the most recent student events

2. Be an ally

Allies are people who acknowledge the privilege they receive from society’s injustice towards others and take responsibility for changing this. Within and without the university it is our responsibility as a community, to use our voice and positions to stand up for each other, and those who may face inequality.

Get involved with current issues affecting black students, use your privilege to support. For example, collaborating with the African and Caribbean Society.

3. Increase the visibility of Black and Minority Ethnic staff

Most importantly, increasing the visibility of BAME staff in the UK and in our University, and promoting positive role models for BAME students. Are you a member of any of the following forums or networks? Do you attend events to share your opinions?

Access Forum – members come from across our University (Colchester, Southend and Loughton) and have diverse roles but a shared interest in access, disability and inclusion. 

Global Forum – The Global Forum is a staff-led network which promotes, celebrates and emphasises the rich cultural diversity among Essex staff. 

Parents’ Support Network – Our Parents’ Support Network is a group of working parents with shared interests and responsibilities who offer each other informal peer support on topics such as managing the transition back to work and the challenges of being a working parent. All mums and dads are welcome, including mums and dads to be and grandparents.

Essex LGBT Alliance – The Essex LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) Alliance is open to any member of staff. LGBT issues do not just affect those who are themselves LGBT.

Essex Women’s Network – The network is a member-led initiative run by women for women, but all staff are welcome to attend events, participate in activities or submit comments.

I write this to mark the end of Black History calendar month. Not the end of Black History.

This is where it begins for Essex.


Esther Oluga, Frontrunner


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