The Impact of Government Initiatives in Promoting Racial Equality in Higher Education: A Case Study

Andrew Pilkington


This paper will explore the mechanisms by which the British state has encouraged in the last decade universities and other higher education institutions to address issues relating to equality and diversity, generally and race and ethnicity, specifically. Strategies employed by the New Labour government, first elected in 1997, designed to widen (student) participation and promote (staff) equal opportunities will be explicated. It will be argued that these colour blind initiatives had a very limited impact prior to their incorporation into specific duties following the Race Relations (Amendment) Act. The implementation of this legislation initially raised the profile of issues relating to race and ethnicity, but this change proved short-lived and both race and ethnicity, and equality and diversity, issues have subsequently been de-prioritised and fallen down the agenda. While a series of commissioned evaluations suggest that government initiatives have made a significant difference and that universities have made progress in promoting race equality and acknowledging ethnic diversity, deconstruction of the discourses underpinning these official evaluations reveals significant lacunae and remarkable continuities.

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Copyright (c) 2009 Andrew Pilkington