Doreen Lawrence launches centre to boost minority students' prospects
The mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence will this week condemn Britain’s “old boy network” as she launches the UK’s first institution to improve the educational performance of black and ethnic minority students.
On Thursday, the University of Birmingham will unveil its new centre for research in race and education, designed to boost the career prospects of those from the groups.
Launching the centre 20 years after the death of her 18-year-old son, Doreen Lawrence said that the government had lost its focus on race and that rich white men still tend to prosper, while opportunity and equality for many “seems to be going backwards”.
“We want a society in which not just the opportunities but also the outcomes for education and career success are fairly balanced across all ethnic groups,” she said.
Issues that the centre hopes to address include the question of why black students are more than three times less likely to be awarded a first-class university degree than their white classmates, and the racial bias that means graduates with names that sound non-English find it much harder to secure job interviews.
A recent report by MPs found that ethnic minority women endure discrimination “at every stage of the recruitment process”.
Professor David Gillborn, the director of the centre, said it was critical that inequalities in the education system were addressed and that the centre would talk to teachers, parents and policy-makers to try to make progress.
He said: “There is a widespread assumption that racism is no longer an issue in education. But across the board, in experiences and outcomes in primary, secondary and higher education, there remain significant ethnic inequalities. However, race is no longer on the political agenda in the way that it was.”
Dr Nicola Rollock, the deputy director of the centre, said that it would concentrate on how racism manifests itself in everyday life. “Race and racism are often seen as being only about issues of far-right extremism or the random rant of a person on a train,” she said. “In fact race and racism shape the lives of many black and minority ethnic groups.”
The centre will also update research showing that black Caribbean pupils face institutional racism in English schools, a situation that undermined their chances of academic success.
Other studies have shown a bias against foreign-sounding names, which reduces the marks students receive, and a “eurocentric bias” in university curriculums.