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Manifesto idea #2: Professor Kalwant Bhopal

  • 11 May 2018
  • By Kalwant Bhopal

This blog is part of the series featuring ideas contained in the new HEPI-Brightside report, Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and ParticipationIt showcases the idea from Kalwant Bhopal, Professor of Education and Social Justice at the University of Birmingham.


Radical change is needed in higher education to support Black and Minority Ethnic students. There is ample evidence to suggest that Black and Minority Ethnic students remain disadvantaged in higher education: they are less likely to attend elite and Russell Group universities, less likely to gain a 2:1 or First class degree and are more likely to drop out of university than their peers. A key factor that many students discuss is their experience of racism, both from peers and from staff, in which they feel staff give favourable treatment and greater support to white students, which can influence their grades.

To address these issues, universities must, first, demonstrate they are monitoring racist incidents and underlying evidence of structural discrimination. Secondly, they should publish clear action plans with specific measurable outcomes on how the university will address racism. Thirdly, this information should be disseminated consistently across the university.

Too many institutions invest heavily in delivering narratives of their commitment to social justice rather than addressing actual problems. One specific measure is the introduction of mandatory unconscious bias training; it is no longer good enough for staff to claim they are unaware of discrimination in the workplace. If universities are serious about addressing inequalities, they must implement transparent policies so that all students, regardless of their ethnic background, can benefit from their university experiences.

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