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Study Notes

Sian, K. ‘Being Black in a White World: Understanding Racism in British Universities’ (2017)


Last updated 18 Sept 2020

This is an overview of a contemporary piece of sociological research

Brief summary of research methods:

  • Empirical data generated by a series of qualitative, in-depth, semi-structured interviews with "8 academics of colour and of difference", who are based broadly within the social sciences and humanities.
  • A mix of male and female respondents were interviewed.
  • Respondents came from a range of different racial, religious and ethno-national backgrounds; they also occupied different academic roles.
  • Respondents were initially accessed through convenience sampling and then through snowball sampling.
  • Topics discussed in the interview focused on experiences of teaching and the curriculum, support and departmental politics, institutional racism and career progression.

Key findings:

  • BAME academic females experience ‘double exclusion’ through racist and sexist embedded structures
  • BAME female academics are often perceived as lacking credibility
  • BAME staff experience challenges around promotion and are less likely to be shortlisted or appointed compared to their white counterparts
  • Those who engage with research on race and ethnicity are more likely to feel marginalised and unsupported as their research topics are viewed as irrelevant or trivial
  • BAME academics feel unsupported in HE with limited access to career guidance from a mentor
  • BAME academics felt unstable and insecure within their careers with little reassurance from senior members of staff
  • BAME academics experienced difficulties around teaching and challenging racist and prejudiced assumptions within the classroom
  • BAME female and male academics experience emotional and psychological strain across every aspect of their profession including daily interactions with colleagues

Link to specification:

Link to Crime and Deviance:

  • These findings provide insight into how ethnic minorities may experience institutional racism and discrimination within university structures. It provides qualitative data on how they are victimised and mistreated.

Link to Education:

  • Links to critical race theorists who highlight ‘locked-in inequality’ within the education system
  • Provides insight into the experiences of academics, teachers, senior lecturers, etc. and the racist structures within their institutions
  • BAME female academics are likely to experience negative experiences on account of their gender as well as ethnic background
  • The findings of the study also reveal the importance of challenging racist assumptions within the classroom but not leaving this solely down to BAME academics and lecturers.

Link to original article:

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