Progress on Prejudice?

Catherine Watts 10 October 2007

Cambridge University has promised to redouble its efforts in the fight against racism after an internal survey revealed ethnic minority staff still feel left out in the cold.

Workers from ethnic minority groups are outnumbered in the University by more than nine to one – and one respondent complained that “the doors of the club are not open to everyone”.

More than 800 questionnaires were returned as part of the survey, which was set up to promote staff equality and integration, and which is a legal requirement under the 2000 Race Relations Act.

University officials have been keen to show they are trying to stamp out racism after the 2001 staff survey criticised the “tough, macho culture” and “insular and secretive” work ethic faced by employees.

Despite efforts to tackle the problem, 12% of workers from ethnic minorities said they had suffered direct racism at work and another employee said: “The real decisions are still taken by a network of insiders.”

But the University insists there is a silver lining after the survey showed a marked improvement in staff morale.

Because six years ago, three-quarters of ethnic minority staff claimed to feel isolated – while the most recent findings reveal the figure is down to one in eight.

A statement from Cambridge University said: “The survey has provided us with a useful snapshot of the views held by some of our staff and provides us with a context for addressing any areas of concern.

“The feedback gathered will help us as we move forward with a number of initiatives to help ensure that all staff feel equally welcome.

“This will include developing diversity, training staff involved in recruiting and keeping hold of employees, and organising a new Race Equality Network for members of minority staff.”

And the University’s acting head of equality and diversity Victoria Showunmi stressed that more needed to be done.

She said: “As a black member of staff I hope the issue will come out into the open.”

Catherine Watts