The Equality and Human Rights Commission recently conducted an Inquiry into Racial Harassment in Universities.
The findings from the inquiry are broken down into three reports, all published in October 2019.
Survey of University Students
This was a short online survey (7-8 minutes) which was completed by just over 1000 students. Ethnic minorities were deliberately over-represented to boost the sample size of some of the smaller sub groups (roughly 50-50 white to ethnic minority sampling).
The survey reports that:
- Just over one in ten of all students (13%) had experienced racial harassment since starting their course.
- Around a quarter of students from an ethnic minority background (24%) had experienced racial harassment, compared to 9% of White students.
- Men were twice as likely as women to have experienced racial harassment (16% and 8% respectively).
The main types of harassment experienced
Only 33% of cases reported
The report notes that the main reason for not reporting (cited in 44% of cases) was that the victims had no confidence that the matter would be dealt with effectively.
Survey of Universities
The EHRC’s survey of universities reveals that they receive very few complaints of racial harassment from either students or staff. The report notes that:
“Institutions received an average of 2.3 complaints of racial
harassment of staff and 3.6 complaints of racial harassment of
students between the start of the 2015/16 academic year and
This equates to roughly one complaint for every 1,850 university
employees and one complaint for every 4,100 students since the start
of the 2015/16 academic year.”
Main reason for reporting racial harassment
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the main type of harassment reported is verbal…
Confidence levels in the reporting figures.
56% of staff are confident that the above figures are accurate, slightly lower for students
Outcomes of reports for harassment
Less than 40% of cases for students, and only 17% for staff result in some kind of redress fro the victim…
A few problems with the methodology of this study…
- It’s not clear how the students were sampled (it doesn’t say in the report) – this may be a self selecting sample – students who have experienced racism are maybe more likely to take part.
- There’s a lot of problems with subjectivity over definitions of terms, and whether some of the incidents being reported are actual harassment. Students reporting that they’ve been eluded from events on racial grounds for example – it’s very difficult to prove this is because of race, and I’m fairly sure it doesn’t count as harassment.
According to students in England’s universities, the experience of racial harassment is common place, with 13%, or roughly 1 out of every 7 students having been a victim of some sort of unfair treatment on the basis of race.
If we look at just ethnic minority students, 24% believe they have been a victim of racial harassment.
However, the universities seem to be largely oblivious to this – they only record 1 incident per 4000 students, which is so far away from the stated figures that the students themselves.
Maybe more worryingly 55% of universities think their own recordings are accurate. I think we can at least conclude from the above survey of students that this is something they may need to investigate!
Finally, if 33% of cases of harassment are being reported to universities, they are certainly not being recorded, again something which seems to suggest that universities are ignoring the issue!
Find out more
You could investigate the above reports for yourself, and even check out the qualitative findings if you like!