Fewer than 1% of the professors employed at UK universities are black and few British universities employ more than one or two black professors, figures show.

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) figures show UK universities continue to increase academic and non-academic staff numbers to record levels but progress on employing more staff from ethnic minorities remains sluggish.

Universities employed 217,000 academic staff and 223,000 non-academic staff in 2018-19, both up 5,000 compared with the previous year.

Only 140 academic staff at professorial level identified as black, equating to 0.7% out of a total of more than 21,000 professors. Nearly 18,000 or 85% identified as white.

The statistics suggest the vast majority of British universities employ between zero and two black professors. Oxford, Sussex, Manchester and Warwick were among the few to employ enough senior black academics to show up in the official statistics.

Male professors continue to outnumber females by three to one, or 15,700 to 5,700 in 2018-19. The number of female professors has increased by 1,200 in the five years since 2014-15, and the number of males by half that amount.

Previous research has found that UK universities employed just 25 black women as professors.

Hesa data published in January suggested that no black staff were employed at the most senior levels of leadership in British universities in 2018-19, which ministers described as “unacceptable”.

The latest statistics show that just 75 people on university governing bodies identified as black, out of 3,600 governors in England, Wales and Scotland, including staff and non-staff.

Hesa also released figures showing that the dropout rate for first-year students continues to rise, which the Office for Students described as concerning.

England had the highest non-continuation rate, with 6.9% of first-years in 2017-18 failing to continue their studies the following year, up from 6.5% in 2014-15. In both Wales and Scotland the non-continuation rate was 6.1%, each lower than in 2014-15.

The non-continuation rate among mature students – those starting their studies over the age of 21 – also rose sharply in England, to 14%, continuing a trend in recent years.

The breakdown by individual institutions showed that some alternative providers had very high dropout rates, including the UK College of Business and Computing based in London, which had 80 of its 165 undergraduates fail to continue after their first year.

Among mainstream universities, a number had non-continuation rates of between 15% and 26%, while the University of Bedfordshire and London Metropolitan University saw around 18% of their young undergraduates leave higher education. At the other end of the scale, the Courtauld Institute of Art had none of its 45 students drop out.

Michelle Donelan, the universities minister for England, said: “With high numbers of students continuing to drop out, this data shows progress is slow from some institutions to tackle the issue. I want universities to step up and take action as we cannot let these students down and let talent go to waste.”

Nicola Dandridge, the chief executive of the Office for Students, said: “English higher education enjoys internationally high completion rates, but an increase in the proportion of students dropping out is a concern.”



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