College boards ‘dominated’ by white men

A survey is set to reveal the extent of “under-representation” of black and ethnic minority groups on college governing boards, FE Week can reveal.

The Association of Colleges (AoC) is due to publish its survey on the make-up of English college boards next Spring — but FE Week has seen the results.

And they depict a world dominated white, middle-aged men.

They show at least 81 per cent of governors were white British, 60 per cent were aged between 45 and 64, and 62 per cent were men.

The results of the AoC survey showed that just 7 per cent of governors were Indian, Pakistani, British Asian, black African or black Caribbean, while some respondents did not give details.

The 2011 Census of England and Wales showed 25.4 per cent of the population was from the 45 to 64 age group.

It also showed that 80 per cent were white British. Locally, figures for the white population range from 95.4 per cent in the South West to 59.8 per cent in London.

Mei Hui, spokesperson for racial equality group Olmec, said: “It is disappointing there is a low representation [on college boards] from ethnic communities.”

She called for a review into where colleges were advertising governor vacancies, adding: “The question is whether FE institutions are making good use of their ethnic minority networks in the local area.”

Rajinder Mann, chief executive of the Network for Black and Asian Professionals (NBAP), is set to lead an AoC Governors’ Council working group to recommend improvements.

She said: “The NBAP is not in favour of quotas, but we do support positive action to address under-representation as there is clear anecdotal evidence indicating that there is a paucity of BME [black and minority ethnic] governors.

“We want governing bodies to be representative of BME communities locally and nationally. There is a need for targeted intervention to attract, recruit, train and retain ABME [Asian, black, minority and ethnic] governors.

“In order to do this we need to have clear and transparent baseline data.”

It is further understood that just 17 per cent of college boards are chaired by women.

But, according to the 2011 Census, 50.9 per cent of the population was female.

Charlie Woodworth, from gender equality group the Fawcett Society, said: “News that the majority of governors are men sadly comes as no surprise.

“Enabling women to play a full role in public life — be it in the education sphere, politics or elsewhere — would be good for us all.”

The survey was requested by the AoC Governors’ Council and based on responses from 188 of 339 colleges across England.

Dr Sue Pember led a recent AoC review, called Creating Excellence in College Governance, into the role of college governors.

It highlighted the need for “baseline” figures to illustrate the diversity of college boards, but she rejected the re-introduction of representation quotas for ethnicity or gender, which were last used in the 1990s. Her report instead called on colleges to actively “refresh” their boards.

Speaking about the newest figures on behalf of the AoC, she said: “The ethnic make-up of governors is an area we all have to work on.

“I actually thought the figures for the number of women were better than expected. Now that we have a baseline, the next thing we want to look at is increasing the number of women chairs.”

She added: “It’s for the individual colleges to determine the right mix of governors for the communities they serve.”