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Prejudice, unconscious bias, microaggressions: racism takes many forms in higher education

A third of college staff from minority groups say their contributions have been minimised based on their race or ethnicity

Subtle forms of inequality and prejudice affect the daily lives of staff from minority ethnic groups, according to a recent survey. Photograph: iStock

In the past two decades, the Irish higher education sector has seen a significant shift from consisting of largely nationally focused institutions, catering primarily to school leavers, to internationally connected institutions with diverse student bodies of all ages and backgrounds. Along with this change, higher education institutions (HEIs) have seen a growing ethnic diversity in both their student and staff populations, a development reflective of Ireland’s changing population.

It is now just over two years since the Higher Education Authority (HEA) conducted a ground-breaking National Race Equality Survey of staff in higher education institutions. To mark this, the first HEA national race equality conference was held last week at the University of Galway. The conference brought key stakeholders together to highlight the structural, institutional and historical dimensions of racism which have informed past and current practice in HEIs and the societies in which they are situated.


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