Society publishes Update to its Race, Ethnicity & Equality report

27 June 2024

In October 2018 the Royal Historical Society published Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History. A Report and Resource for Change. Today the Society releases an Update to this Report.

The 2018 Report presented a troubling picture of the underrepresentation and experience of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) History students and academic staff in UK Higher Education. This included statistics relating to BME representation and attainment.

The June 2024 Update focuses on this data for representation and attainment to trace developments over five additional years. The original Report drew on figures for the academic year 2016/17 which are extended now to 2021/22, which is the latest year available, following the annual release of ethnicity profiles for students and staff in UK Higher Education.

The picture that emerges is mixed. There is a welcome increase, year-on-year, in the number and percentage share of BME student enrolments for History undergraduate and postgraduate degrees. The period also sees a decrease in the BME awarding gap for First-Class degrees in Historical and Philosophical Studies. As regards staffing, there has been an increase in the number and percentage share of BME historians employed in UK Higher Education, alongside initiatives by selected UK departments. These include the creation of a number of dedicated and permanent, full-time lectureships in Black British and/or British Asian History, with a further broadening of the curriculum, undertaken by historians across the sector.

At the same time, there remain areas of concern. Absolute numbers of BME History students and staff remain extremely low. The BME academic pipeline – from GCSE and A-Level to undergraduate study and doctoral research – continues to be underpopulated and precarious. The number of UK-trained BME historians remains very low indeed, with numerical increases owing more to recruitment of staff from overseas than of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority historians who are UK nationals.

The Update also reviews recent developments in teaching provision for Black and Asian History. A growing number of UK departments now include one, and sometimes two, dedicated appointments in Black British and/or Asian British History. At the same time, the current environment in Higher Education management and financing is one in which the creation and continuation of dedicated appointments in Black and Asian History remains uncertain.

In addition, the Update summarises recent and current work undertaken by the Royal Historical Society as an agent for reform, with obligations to effect positive change at the levels of the individual, department and sector. Confronting racial and ethnic inequality in the historical profession is integral to all aspects of the Society’s work. This Update also marks the Society’s broader move to provide historians with the fullest possible picture of History in UK Higher Education, at sector-level, through the regular provision of data as generated by external providers.

Please see here for copies of the Society’s 2018 Race, Ethnicity & Equality in UK History. A Report and Resource for Change, and the ‘Roadmaps for Change’, 2019 and 2020.