Ethnic Diversity in Higher Education Leadership News and Views - Tessa Harrison

Ethnic diversity in Higher Education leadership: join the #HigherDiversityCoalition

Over the last 12 months, GatenbySanderson has convened a group of representatives from a wide range of Higher Education sector bodies to pool our passion, resources, and knowledge to tackle the lack of ethnic diversity in the leadership of academic/education and student professional services.

In November 2022, Tessa Harrison, Partner in our Education practice, and Gin Bhandal from Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, conducted research to understand the level of challenge we are faced with increasing ethnic diversity in higher education leadership.

Two things happened:

  1. Firstly, the data showed good representation of ethnically diverse staff at entry levels into academic and student services. This was reduced by c.50% at each salary step until reaching virtually no representation in director-level roles.
  2. Secondly, we identified a severe and worrying data gap with many directors telling us they don’t have access to the data about their staff.

This is a sector-wide issue that can’t be tackled in isolation.   

There are examples of excellent work happening across the sector and we have come together to form the #HigherDiversityCoalition, with representatives from:

The #HigherDiversityCoalition aims to unlock the barriers that persist to increasing ethnic diversity in Higher Education leadership. Specifically, the leadership of student and academic services to reflect the student populations these professional services work with. Ordinarily, we would be delighted to bring together a group of sector bodies but how frustrating it is that the need for this group exists in 2023?

This coalition has come together to drive change via a four-point plan that will:

  1. address the lack of data collection and analysis as a key driver for change
  2. identify best practice and examine the barriers that exist in recruitment, progression, and retention policies and practice
  3. tell the real lived experience stories of staff
  4. develop a coherent approach to development programmes that build, develop and support the talent pipeline to grow and flourish.

We can’t do any of this alone.

If you are interested in tackling this issue head-on and to be a part of leading the change, please get in touch by emailing who wants to hear your stories and examples of good practice.

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