A seat at the table is not enough: Navigating and experiencing institutional racism at university.

Racism is undoubtedly prevalent in the UK, upheld and reinforced by its institutions, this is not a conversation that can be swept under the rug.

For years universities have reinforced systemic oppression through an elitist system by acting as a gatekeeper for higher education. Although there has been a move towards the inclusion of more marginalised groups, there is more than just a long way to go.

Ultimately, there is a long list of issues that negatively impact the experience of Black students during their time at university, one of which is the sheer lack of Black academics. Less than 1% of university professors are Black, with male professors significantly outnumbering females - £9,500 per year is a high price to pay to be surrounded by people who don’t look like you.

The issue that follows from this is that if there is no one around who looks like you, it then becomes challenging to find someone who understands you and your experiences. This usually leads to feeling like you don’t belong in this environment, disengagement, and in many instances dropping out of your studies.

With an increasingly high rate of Black students dropping out, this is an obvious problem. It coincides with the labelling issue of “BAME” and how a high BAME percentage does not equivocate to a high percentage of Black students, nor does it mean that there is adequate support in place for these students - but that’s a whole other conversation.

Another factor that plays into this is the curriculum. Not only is it uninspiring, but it is draining to consume a curriculum that does not hold space for your history. As Black people, we know the importance of knowing your history and accepting that what you are taught through education is a sugar-coated, one-sided synopsis of what really happened. Decolonisation of the curriculum is necessary and long overdue, it’s time to teach Britain's true history and involve Black history and experiences within these institutions.

Likewise with most conversations currently happening, what needs to be done for a change to be made? It’s essential to note that Black people are not responsible for finding the solutions for the systems which oppress them. For a change to occur people in positions of power need to be willing to take accountability and unlearn these behaviours. What I’m trying to say is that, gaining a seat at this table does not eradicate the systemic racist elements which are ingrained in these institutions and within society itself - more needs to be done.

Image Credit: (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/racism-university-students-equality-human-rights-commission-a9167286.html)