With the advent in the UK of a new Labour government in 1997 and the publication of the Macpherson report in 1999, public debate over race and racism was reactivated after a long period when such concerns had remained dormant. In this article, I shall draw upon an ethnographic study of one university in the UK over a ten year period (Pilkington, 2011a). Here I shall focus on the early part of that period, predominantly 1999-2003 when arguably issues relating to race and racism were at their height. I examine how Midshire University responded in turn to the Commission for Racial Equality’s (CRE’s) leadership challenge; the government’s strategies for higher education relating to widening participation and equal opportunities; and the race relations legislation. The story is not a happy one, with the institution constantly subsuming race under a more general agenda and in the process failing to address the specificities of race. Midshire University is unlikely to be the only university to do this. For universities in the UK are typically characterised by the ‘sheer weight of whiteness’ which blinds senior managers and academics to racial inequalities in their midst.
- higher education
- widening participation