Diversity, Governance

Most college boards missing black and Asian members, AoC finds

A sector leader has warned there is "more to be done" on making boards more diverse

A sector leader has warned there is "more to be done" on making boards more diverse


Over half of FE college boards have no black board members, while less than a third have no Asian members, new research by the Association of Colleges has found.

The report also shows nearly half of boards surveyed had 10 or more male members, but only eight reported 10 or more female members.

The Current Status of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Further Education Sector in England is based on a survey of 113 governance professionals and 328 board members, plus an analysis of college websites and 836 sets of board minutes.

Association chief executive David Hughes said there is “more work” to be done “to be representative amongst senior staff and leaders” as colleges are “some of the most diverse institutions in the country in terms of students”.

This report, carried out by education and skills questionnaire provider QDP Services, provides a “baseline to work from and highlight the challenges that remain around representation, diversity and inclusion in our sector,” Hughes said.

David Hughes

As well as 32 per cent of boards having no Asian members and 51 per cent having no black members, the report also found 63 per cent had no members declaring a physical disability.

Ninety per cent of boards had fewer than three members aged under 24 and less than one per cent had a member who identified as non-heterosexual or which had a gender reassigned member.

Despite this, 70 per cent of governance professionals – paid employees who work with the board – described their board as diverse.

Only 36 per cent of board members felt their board pays sufficient attention to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI), and one third felt their board was failing to implement EDI.

Boards most commonly monitored EDI within the organisation using an annual report on the matter, but the report called this “often a rather token mechanism”.

The report recommends all boards have a clear and contextualised definition of EDI, as it found: “Confusion over their meaning and relative stature is a common ground on which EDI stalls.”

Boards must put in place evidence-based strategies to promote EDI and “bookend” efforts to improve it with audits of issues and outcomes.

The most effective training interventions to promote EDI should also be promoted and government needs to put resources into supporting the FE sector on this.

A call for further research to come up with objective measures with a “360-degree view of EDI” is also needed.

Diversity in FE leadership has become a hot topic in the sector, with FE Week reporting in July 2019 that less than seven per cent of college principals were non-white.

The following October, the Education and Training Foundation announced its Diversity in Leadership programme including one-to-one coaching for aspiring black, Asian and minority ethnic leaders.

Several sector groups focusing on EDI, such as the Association of Colleges’ EDI steering group and the Black FE Leadership Group, have also been formed to push for action.

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