Employment figures for certain ethnicities are very low, with Cambridge employing fewer than 10 Arab and Bangladeshi academics who disclosed their ethnicityRosie Bradbury

Black academic and research staff at Cambridge make on average nearly £12,000 less a year than their white counterparts, and academics and researchers from Chinese backgrounds make almost £10,600 less, of Cambridge staff who disclosed their ethnicity.

Data obtained by Varsity concerning the University’s basic pay, as of September 2018, showed that the average salary for white academic and research staff was £49,442, while the total average across all ethnicities was £48,451.

On average, academics from other ethnic backgrounds face lower average salaries than their white colleagues at the University. Academic and research staff from Black British African, Caribbean, and other black backgrounds have an average salary of £37,495 per annum.

Academics and researchers from Arab backgrounds face a similar pay gap, with an average salary of £39,104, while academics and researchers from Chinese backgrounds are paid £38,857 on average. The average salary of those from Asian or Asian British backgrounds of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani origin is £45,127, more than £4,000 below the average salary of white academics and researchers.

The average pay figures include only those staff who have disclosed their ethnicity. In the University’s 2016-2017 ‘Equality and Diversity Draft Information Report’, 84.1% of staff had a known ethnicity.

For academics who are of mixed ethnicity, the average salary is £43,156 while for those from ‘other’ Asian backgrounds it is £40,098. The average salary for those from ‘other’ ethnic backgrounds is £56,022, which is the highest average salary of any group. The average pay for some ethnicities was grouped together in the interests of having a sample size large enough for meaningful statistical comparison.

The pay disparities between ethnicities at the University are influenced by the under-representation of academics of some ethnicities in senior academic positions. There are only 16 professors from Indian backgrounds, out of 552 professors who have disclosed their ethnicity. It is still the most-represented BME group for professors, and constitutes 2.4% of the total figure.

More than half of professors at the University are white British, while another quarter are white, from other regions. 91.9% of Cambridge professors and readers are white, of 84.5% of professors and readers who have disclosed their ethnicity. There are fewer than five professors from Arab, Pakistani, Black, and Chinese groups respectively, of those who have disclosed their ethnicity. 

There are fewer than 40 BME readers of those who disclosed their ethnicity, and fewer than 28 from the cohort of senior lecturers. There are 25 Indian University lecturers, 13 from Chinese backgrounds, and 15 who are of mixed ethnicity.

The hierarchy of Cambridge’s academic roles progresses from University lecturer to University Senior Lecturer, Reader, then Professor – the highest position for academic staff. Promotion to the position of Professor requires the approval of the University on the recommendation of the General Board, a body which reports to the University Council on academic and educational policy.

Addressing the pay gap, a University spokesperson said Cambridge “is committed to being a space free from racism, discrimination, prejudice and harassment”, and to “enhance a culture of racial inclusion and equality at Cambridge,” they are “developing diverse recruitment guidelines to help attract more Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff, as well as launching a new BAME staff network to support and encourage those who join us.”

They noted that “as an institution we have much work to do to improve the experience of many of our BAME staff and students and to achieve greater representation of BAME staff in senior leadership and in governance structures”, and will “continue to identify opportunities and remove barriers related to career progression for BAME staff, to achieve greater diversity at senior levels”.

“Students’ reference points are generally of a fairly white normative ideal of who gets to be an academic”

Dr Manali Desai, equality officer at the Cambridge Universities and Colleges Union, as well as head of its new anti-racism network, referenced the University’s recent ‘Let’s Talk About Race’ event as evidence that “the University is aware that there’s a race problem” and is trying to make progress. She said that “it is very clear that the data-gathering itself is a start”, and will allow the University to track its progress, although she wants to see Cambridge “work with this data to produce a set of goals” that will allow it to “monitor whether it’s succeeding” in its aims.

Desai noted that diversity in the University “rapidly thins as you go through the senior academic ranks”, and that “students’ reference points are generally of a fairly white normative ideal of who gets to be an academic”. She added that promotions can be “tricky, and depend on a range of things” – including “networking and earning grants”, as well as “how your work is perceived”, and “esteem indicators”. She said greater promotions for BME staff is “very dependent on a more level playing field where people take the work that BME academics do seriously.”

Employment figures for some ethnicities are very low, with the University employing fewer than 10 Arab and Bangladeshi academics who disclosed their ethnicity, and no Bangladeshi professors. The University notes that there are no gypsy – traveller employees, or black Caribbean employees, who disclose their ethnicity across all staff types.

Among academic-related and assistant staff, the distribution of pay is much more even. White staff earn £33,396 a year, while the total average across ethnicities was £33,466.


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Speaking on the missing data, Dr Joanna Jasiewicz, an equality and diversity consultant at the University told Varsity that “the reasons for choosing not to disclose ones’ ethnicity are complex, including limited awareness as to why the University asks for ethnicity data, concerns about being identified as ‘BME’ and about how this data will be used.” She added that some white staff “do not disclose because they do not think that the question on ethnicity and race refers to them”.

Jasiewicz added that the University is planning “increased communications on these topics to highlight how the University uses the ethnicity data and that everyone, both people who self-identify as White and BME, should disclose to help us develop impactful initiatives.”