Race and the Academy: the President reflects

Our President responds to today’s open letter on racial justice in higher education. (published 6 July 2020 in Times Higher Education)

I welcome today’s letter from the Black Economists for Racial Justice group calling for the higher education system, including learned societies, to engage more seriously with structural racism in our sector.

We must engage with racism beyond statements, and without our staff and scholars of colour having to remind us to do so. As well as taking a long hard look at our internal structures and processes the Academy stand ready to work with partners across the sector to translate words and statements into actions that eliminate racism.

As today’s letter calls for, we release data on all our grant application and success rates by ethnicity, data is publicly available for the past three years. We also publish a breakdown of our Fellowship by ethnic group. And we publish a breakdown of the ethnic profile of our own workforce. All this data is openly available on our website.

Our data shows we have much more to do. Last month the Academy elected two Black Fellows, which is more than in the previous 20 years. Our grants data suggest ongoing disparities in success rates between white researchers and researchers of colour. Our staff are only beginning to reflect the city in which our offices are based.

Our focus is on working in partnership with relevant groups to address these inequalities. We aim to give autonomy to enable people and communities already working with scholars of colour to prioritise work on their terms rather than ours. For example, we have recently joined with BBSTEM (Black British Professionals In STEM) to host workshops on mental health for Black researchers, and are examining our existing careers support programmes to ensure they support fair access to opportunities.

We accept constructive criticism, such as this letter, and will to use it to grow towards a fairer higher education system in the UK.

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