Ethnic minority academics speak out over unfair pay

Tuesday 15th January 2019 08:24 EST

More than a dozen ethnic minority academics from UK universities have come forward with allegations of unlawfully being paid less than white colleagues with similar or lesser jobs. They have spoken out following BBC revelations that ethnic minority academics are losing out on pay. 

It is not only junior academics who are affected, says Pragya Agrawal who was on a grade just below professor when she discovered she was being paid about £8,000 less than white male lecturers on lower grades in the same department. She feels she was doubly discriminated against as an ethnic minority academic and as a woman.

Paying men and women differently at the same level has been unlawful since the Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970. A government consultation on compulsory ethnicity pay reporting for companies with more than 250 staff closes on Friday. Another teacher Mansoor says he felt discriminated against after discovering he was on the lowest possible academic salary, despite his nine years of teaching experience. The extent of the discrimination became clear, he says, when his department appointed a newly-qualified academic on a higher grade to him, amounting to a pay gap of £7,000. He says he faces "casual racism" in his department about his Arab heritage which is hard to address, because "people think academia is such a liberal environment".

Lama, another non-white senior academic, was horrified when she overheard two junior colleagues discussing their pay. They were newly qualified, in their first jobs as lecturers, and yet, despite her six years' experience of teaching in elite research universities worldwide, their salaries were several thousand pounds higher than hers.

Overwhelmingly, the academics who spoke to us chose to remain anonymous for fear that speaking out now would jeopardise their future careers.

Yet another teacher Maya says her head of department apologised and offered to raise her salary, but not enough to close the pay gap. When she considered challenging it further he advised her not to, saying she might be "seen as an angry black woman" and recommended applying for a promotion instead.

The head of policy and campaigns at the University and College Union Matt Waddup, says: "Not only is this unlawful, it is a huge waste of potential, and risks driving talented staff out of the sector. We urgently need much greater transparency on pay for women and ethnic minority staff in higher education, including detailed equal pay audits at a local level. Institutions must work with trade unions to tackle the scourge of insecure contracts in the sector that disproportionately impact women and ethnic minority staff."

The Department for Education responded that addressing unfairness in higher education is a priority, adding that the government is acting to address gender and ethnic disparities in the workforce as a whole.

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