Friday, February 08, 2008

UNIVERSITIES AND EQUALITY

Under UK anti-discrimination legislation, Universities are now actively setting up departments to ensure there is compliance with the law in all respects. Legislation covers employment practices, student enrolment and services offered by Universities. This is a huge task and one which will evolve over the years.

Whilst the law is driving action, it is important not to lose sight of the fundamental principles of equality and to promote these. As centres of education, Universities are a prime site for building community cohesion in Britain. They bring a range of minorities together who are young and keen to learn. They attract students from all over the world and create networks which may last long after the students leave the campus. Also academics are a key to a healthy learning community and their subjects and research should also embrace equality in its truest sense.

My current reading of it is that the attention at present is focused on legal compliance. This involves employee training - so that all are aware of the law and how to behave. Another new aspect is equality impact assessment - an audit required for public institutions.



These are the equality principles I recommend:

1. All students are respected and treated equally, irrespective of race, disability, age, sexuality or belief.



2. Subjects taught should endeavour to embrace equality and research should also encourage alternative cultural and philosophical perspectives. For example, modern materialistic and utilitarian economics is one way of looking at the economy, not the only way. There are many alternative economic systems and students should be exposed to this at an early stage.



3. Academic recruitment and promotion should be open and not biased to any one culture or method of research. There are serious issues about this in British Universities. The top management often tend to male and monocultural. We urgently need Vice Chancellors who are non-white.



4. Overseas students should be warmly welcomed when they first arrive on campus. The University and perhaps also Town should have a welcome party with food - something which is so common in foreign cultures where visitors are received with great warmth and hospitality. It must not be forgotten that they are a vital source of revenue for Universities and the local economy.


5. Differing identities should not be suppressed - but instead allowed to prevail provided they adhere to UK law. They should also be encouraged to engage and dialogue with one another. In particular, students born and raised in the UK should be positively encouraged to engage more widely.


6. Academics should be encouraged to break from their often mono-cultural ghettos. This will lead to all sources of wisdom being studied and debated, and also referees and editors of journals should give voice to minority voices.

These are my suggestions - here is a great opportunity to take the world into a positive peaceful mode as many students may become leaders in various fields in future years. And they will always thank Britain for this grounding in many different ways.

I await your comments on this.

1 comment:

Jez said...

There is a tendency to argue that universities in the UK need to teach subjects and topics relevant to British students, so there may be a bias towards Eurocentric modes of research and thought. However, if Universities in the UK are to assert their global strength then there definitely should be a wider focusses that looks at different cultural methodologies whilst remaining relevant to students in Britain.