Dr Gurnam Singh
Dr Josephine Kwhali
Stimulus paper, June 2015
Our research forms part of the Leadership Foundation membership benefit. This Stimulus Paper PDF is available for members to download by clicking the image below.
It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.
Audre Lorde, (1934-1992), Caribbean-American writer, radical feminist, and civil rights activist.
It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.
Frederick Douglass, (1818-1895), African-American social reformer, abolitionist orator, writer, and statesman.
The above quotes illustrate the nature of the present racial equality challenges facing higher education in the UK, namely the ability to value difference and the need to intensify energy for change.
This stimulus paper was commissioned by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education to inform ongoing debate and practical actions on equality in the leadership of UK higher education institutions (HEIs). Although significant advances in staff and student equality and diversity have been made under widening access and human resource policies, there is substantive, wellestablished evidence on the stark under-representation of staff from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds at senior leadership levels. The good news is that that the sector as a whole is beginning to realise that the status quo is no longer tenable. For example, the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) Race Equality Charter Mark is currently being piloted in 24 UK HEIs with the expressed aim of inspiring a strategic approach to continuous cultural and systemic change. This will also involve ECU working with HEIs to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of the Charter Mark, including the impact on the careers and conditions for staff in member institutions1.
The paper focuses on leadership issues in relation to UK higher education and HEIs. In these contexts, leaders can include governors, vice-chancellors, senior management teams, other formally appointed individuals, as well as people in temporary leadership roles or acting-up (ie, undertaking a specific job role without formal appointment). HEI leadership also includes strategic and academic leadership (professors and principal investigators), and leadership of networks, disciplinary groups or collaborations. More broadly, leadership in higher education also includes leadership of policy and its implementation, quality assurance and regulation. It can also include more diffuse forms of leadership associated with programmes, networks and organisations, including student leadership. This paper draws on a wide range of research and staff experiences in the UK, as well as research and insights from the US, to offer a critical analysis of the issues.
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