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Ethnic pay gap exists in third-level education, study shows

Higher proportion of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds on less than €60,000 a year when compared with white Irish or white ‘Other’ colleagues

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Professor Colin Scott, UCD, and chair of the IUA’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group

Professor Colin Scott, UCD, and chair of the IUA’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group

Professor Colin Scott, UCD, and chair of the IUA’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group

An ethnic pay gap in Irish higher education has been exposed in a ground-breaking study.

Staff from ethnic minorities are more likely to be on temporary contracts and to be paid less than colleagues from other backgrounds.

A higher proportion of staff from ethnic minority backgrounds are on less than €60,000 a year when compared with white Irish or white ‘Other’ colleagues. Minority ethnic staff are also least likely to be on a salary of above €75,000 .

The Higher Education Authority (HEA) study, based on a survey in late 2020/early 2021, is the first of its kind in Ireland to capture the lived experience of third-level staff in relation to race equality.

It highlights other indicators of how those in an ethnic minority group are treated less equally and how these staff are more likely to feel that college race policies are not meaningful.

The report makes a series of recommendations.

Overall, colleges were seen as collegial workplaces, but a majority of staff agreed that race inequality exists and more could be done to address discrimination.

All higher education staff across universities, institutes of technology and other colleges were invited to participate in the survey and 3,323 responded.

The largest group of respondents (72pc) were white Irish, nearly a fifth (17.5pc) described themselves as ‘white Other’ and 11pc identified as other ethnic categories, including Asian, Black African, Arabic, mixed background, Irish Traveller, Roma and Other.

The HEA does not have official figures on higher education staff by ethnicity, but the breakdown of respondents is broadly in line with CSO population data.

Key findings include:

* 66pc of those from minority ethnic group were earning less than €60,000, compared with 49pc of white Other and 38pc of white Irish.

* 17pc of those from minority ethnic groups were on over €75,000 compared with 25pc of white Other and 38pc of white Irish.

* Staff in minority ethnic groups were more likely to have experienced racial or ethnic discrimination.

* Survey respondents in all groups reported and witnessed racial or ethnic discrimination against minority ethnic staff.

The study found there was awareness of policies on race/ethnicity, but that these were less visible within broader equality policies, such as Dignity at Work.

If policies did exist, there is no real implementation of them and no visible outcomes, respondents reported.

HEA chief executive Dr Alan Wall said higher education had a role in impacting wider society, and there was now an opportunity for senior figures “to take on a leadership role and act as exemplars as we begin to discuss these issues as a nation”.

The Irish Universities Association (IUA) said advancing race equality was on agenda of every university. This week, universities are rolling out an online training programme for staff and students to complement existing race awareness and education activities.

Professor Colin Scott, UCD, and chair of the IUA’s Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Group said the report highlighted wider systemic and structural issues where ingrained and/or unconscious biases and assumptions caused people to be treated differently.  “The university sector is keen to better understand the challenges and to take action in terms of policies and practices,” he said.


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