An exploration of possible unconscious ethnic biases in higher education: The role of implicit attitudes on selection for university posts

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Abstract

Despite efforts to deal with the underrepresentation of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) staff in higher education, progress to date has been limited. We investigate the role of possible implicit attitudes towards ethnic diversity among staff and students at a leading British university. Ninety-six participants (48 White and 48 non-White) were presented with matched C.V.s of White and non- White applicants and were instructed to rate the suitability of candidates against two pre-defined job descriptions for positions at the same university (Lectureship versus Administrative role). Participants were also asked to shortlist two applicants for a subsequent interview, before completing a new multi-ethnic IAT. The new IAT assesses implicit attitudes towards BME groups as a whole, rather than focusing exclusively on a single ethnic minority. Evidence of implicit bias was observed in the IAT scores and in the White participants showing an own-race bias in terms of the proportion of Whites that they selected for the academic post, but not the administrative position. Implicit measures were a better predictor than explicit measures of actual shortlisting decisions. Policy recommendations are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-201
JournalSemiotica
Volume197
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2013

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