Last Friday saw the Herald newspaper run a story headlined “Claim universities swamped with non-Scottish staff” based upon an article in the Scottish Review by Professor Alf Baird from Edinburgh Napier University.
The use of this type of inflammatory language is usually consigned to right wing racists so it was worrying indeed to read a Scottish Academic talk so freely about ‘swamping’ by non-Scots and of Scottish Institutions being ‘overrun’.
Professor Baird asserts “Over the past few decades our universities have headhunted and recruited many academics from distant shores and this has obviously had an effect.” “In some departments/institutes within Scotland’s universities today it can be a challenge to find any senior Scots academics.”
Readers of the full article are treated to a lengthy diatribe against the use of the Times Education Supplement, the lack of controls to limit the number of non-Scots students and staff and culminating in his assertion that compared with Barcelona or Genoa, “Scotland’s universities have been virtually overrun, swamped by comparison. Consequently the very notion of a ‘Scottish Education’ has become confused.”
One wonders if the new criteria for senior academic position is to be a Scottish birth certificate? Does Professor Baird really believe Edinburgh born Tony Blair would better able to understand and appreciate Scotland’s history, culture and institutions than English born Mike Russell or Hong Kong born Jackie Baillie?
Mary Senior from UCU Scotland has already dismissed the suggestion of Scottish universities being “swamped” as “xenophobic to say the least and fails to understand the fast moving interdependent world that we live in today, where global connections can benefit us all.”
Meanwhile on Thursday, the University of Birmingham will unveil its new centre for research in race and education, designed to boost the career prospects of BME students.
Issues that the centre hopes to address include the question of why black students are more than three times less likely to be awarded a first-class university degree than their white classmates, and the racial bias that means graduates with names that sound non-English find it much harder to secure job interviews. A recent report by MPs found that ethnic minority women endure discrimination "at every stage of the recruitment process".
So if Professor Baird wanted to discuss whether we have enough academic and financial support for Scottish graduates (of whatever race) to undertake doctorates and seek careers as academics this would seem a legitimate debate, even more so had he taken on board the woefully low numbers of BME and Women professors in our Universities and the need to address these issues.
But then as a white male academic maybe that’s not such an issue for him?
(source:UCU: The position of women and BME staff in professorial roles in UK HEIs, Jan 2013)