Benjamin Harris-Quinney is the Chairman of the The Bow Group
The Bow Group produced its first research paper in 1952, entitled “Coloured People in Britain”. It served as a study into the British Afro-Caribbean community, and the issues and barriers that were faced by these citizens, to integrate and succeed in British society.
Sixty years later, whilst much has changed, the Bow Group’s latest research paper “Race to the Top – The experience of black students in higher education”, sets forth broadly the same aims. This alone demonstrates a disappointing failure in strategy at national, local and party level, in ensuring citizens from all backgrounds have equality of opportunity in our country.
A recent survey commissioned by the Runnymede Trust demonstrated that people from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds are least likely to vote Conservative, and our studies show a similar disengagement with government as a whole.
This has prompted the Conservative Party to again question the use of the "A-list" strategy, and the need to bring more people from minority backgrounds into politics.
What our paper finds is that young black students believe, particularly in government, there is bias against their applications. I do not believe there is, but the problem is for many students perception is reality, and it deters application and engagement with the wider political process.
I firmly believe that excellence, not equality, should be the quarry of our universities, our economy and our society, and that there is no place in Conservative thought for state imposed quotas or positive discrimination.
What we set out to do, is ensure that in the future we avoid programmes like "the A-list" and quota driven recruitment schemes, which are undoubtedly racist, and replace those schemes with grassroots programmes to ensure candidates do not need special quota programmes, because they have the relevant skill-sets to apply as normal.
The challenge for the government, for universities, schools and communities, is therefore to ensure that excellence in young black candidates is achieved at the point of application to higher education, and continues through to their pursuit of a prominent place in British society.
For this to be achieved it will require a commitment and investment from UK institutions; from our leading universities, from UK companies and from government which must provide the engagement that is needed to make a difference.
“Race to the Top” has been produced to better understand the perceptions of Black undergraduates. It finds specifically:
- 47 percent of Black undergraduates believe the Government discriminates in its graduate recruitment.
- Black students felt they would face discrimination when attempting to pursue a career in the legal services, media, fashion and financial services industries.
- 60 percent of Black Students do not expect to be in work within six months of graduating.
- 68 percent of Black students expect to be earning less than £25,000 in their first graduate role.
- Black students generally believe there is not currently enough mentoring or support given to them to assist them in their choice of where to go to university.
- Black students generally believe that their parents do not currently receive sufficient guidance from careers counsellors in state schools to understand the choices available to their children.
- There is a sizeable discrepancy between the expectations of Black students and the outcomes they face following graduation.
We set forth in this paper that any government level engagement on the issue will yield the best results if it takes the form of mentoring young black students from school level – offering access to programmes and training that can deliver the key experience, networks and skills required to meet the standards required for a professional career, and ultimately to meet the high standards and aspirations of young black students themselves.
These are also the core aims held by the Bow Group and its partner organisation, Elevation Networks, and the Bow Group looks forward to working with Elevation Networks, Deloitte and other partners in the launch of our "Pathway Internship Scheme" to do what we can to see that these aims are met.
We also believe the issues faced by Black Students are less relevant to race, and more relevant to socio-economic grouping. The Bow Group's "Pathway Internship Scheme" intends to focus on finding candidates from "non traditional backgrounds" and that can equally be those from white working class backgrounds.