At the University of Bath less than 2% of the student population is of BME decent. The figures only get worse when we begin to investigate the trends in academic staff. A recent study showed that BME students find it significantly more difficult to be accepted into elite academic institutes; however, the question posed is this: in 2015 is there still discrimination in the system? The answer to that is most definitely ‘yes’. However, my belief is the question posed should actually be ‘what are the many factors that play into the shortcoming of black people in academia?’.
The general trend shows a negative correlation between the ranking of the university and the number of black students that attend. If we review the top five universities we can see that the number of black students gets progressively less. However, if we look at one of the lowest ranked universities London Metropolitan approximately 43% of the student population is of BME decent. This could also be a look into why BME students don’t end up working in academia.
As a black student that interacts with the few BME students on campus, I know only of a few that actually aspire to become academics. Exploring this further led me to two main reasons: status and lack of confidence. Historically, black people have always been the servants to society, serving in roles like nannies and even teachers. Perhaps this has led to people seeking to disassociate themselves from such stereotypes even though the status of a professor is held in quite high regard. Also from young ages the media bombards the minds of people to understand that in order to gain this status you will either have to be athletic or artistic, Academia has never been portrayed as something that is financially rewarding or fulfilling. That being said the wage of an average professor at the University of Bath is approximately £70,000, a fact that I myself did not know until having done the appropriate research. Those that said they might pursue academia feared being discriminated against in the process. A fear that isn’t redundant, having spoken to one of very few black female professors at a recent NUS conference, we discussed the discrimination she faced in the duration of her career.
We can even look at James Watson who helped to develop what we know today as the Watson crick model of DNA, his achievements were celebrated and his racist and sexist views were completely overlooked and swept under the rug. Even historically BME people have never actually been acknowledged for the achievements and contributions to science and medicine examples of which we need look no further then our pages and accounts in our numbering system which originated in the Arab regions of the world, a fact unknown to many. However names like Thomas Edison are household names even though ironically he wasn’t actually the inventor of the light bulb. So even the prospect of recognition is muted and this in itself may lead BME students to believe that even if one should chose to pursue a career in academia that their pursuits will be in vain.
If we look at the risks vs rewards of pursuing a career in academia as a BME student the rewards are practically non-existent apart from the financial and even so one could easily raise to this financial status in other respects at a much faster rate and also be recognized so the final thought that comes to mind is why bother?