Special Reports

Universities Work For Increased Workforce Diversity


While universities are pursuing greater diversity among its student populace, another area that must be given effort is increasing the diversity in a school's workforce, experts say.

"Universities are incubators for ideas and knowledge. And it's right that people from all walks of life should have the opportunity to participate in them," David Ruebain, chief executive of the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), told The Guardian. "There is also anecdotal evidence that ideas-based sectors thrive with diverse input. Homogeneity is the enemy of excellence."

Universities nowadays are growing in terms of workforce diversity, but the question is what kind of roles do staff from black and ethnic backgrounds have in the schools, Stuart McKenna, equality and diversity manager at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU), said.

"Yes, you might find that 15% of employees are from black and minority ethnic backgrounds - but what if the majority are working as domestic assistants, or in other entry-level roles?" McKenna said.

Currently, there is a growing number of women being hired in schools, signifying a greater balance in the gender divide. Out of 66 new vice-chancellors that were appointed in 2012 to 2015, about 29% were women - an improvement that Janet Beer, VC at the University of Liverpool, says is an encouragement.

"I am feeling very encouraged," Beer told University Business. "Numbers were stuck at 16% for a long time, but the fact that 29% of new vice-chancellors are women is great."

Now, HR departments are working towards achieving an increasingly diverse workforce that not only includes a greater number of women, but also includes greater variety in ethnicity.

"We're committed to advancing the careers of all staff and have established a culture in which there is equality of opportunity, fairness and respect for all," says Julie Campbell, HR manager for equality and diversity at the University of Sheffield.

Professor Kathryn Mitchell, vice-chancellor at the University of Derby, says that having a lack in diversity would be a problem.

"That would be a disaster. We want a diverse workforce, as they are our strategic enablers," Mitchell says. "They allow us to work with a group of people who come here to be educated with very different backgrounds, outlooks and skills. And in higher education in particular we want diversity of thinking."

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