Pursuing Racial Justice within Higher Education: Is Conflict Inevitable?

Rollock, Nicola. 2020. Pursuing Racial Justice within Higher Education: Is Conflict Inevitable? In: Andrew Brown and Emma Wisby, eds. Knowledge, Policy and Practice in Education and the Struggle for Social Justice: Essays Inspired by the Work of Geoff Whitty. London: UCL Press, pp. 149-164. ISBN 9781782772774 [Book Section]

[img] Text
09Struggle for Social Justice - Rollock clean.docx
Permissions: Administrator Access Only

Download (46kB)
EDU-Rollock2020b.pdf - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution.

Download (909kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

In his 2005 inaugural presidential address to the British Educational Research Association (later published in the British Educational Research Journal), Geoff Whitty interrogates the relationship between education research and the way in which it is variably taken up by policymakers and put into practice. He contends that the relationship is one marked by misunderstanding, conflict and the subjective priorities and interests of individual policymakers, hence the question posed in the title of his address: ‘Is conflict inevitable?’

In this chapter, I take up Whitty’s provocations in relation to racial justice and higher education. Specifically, I am interested in the relationship and ensuing tensions between what might be conceptualized as the diversity promise – articulated and enacted by universities via policy documents and equality statements – and the stark realities revealed by the data and empirical research regarding, in this case, the experiences of racially minoritized faculty. Building on previous arguments, I contend that the cultural practices and norms of the institution, not only contribute to racial injustice but actively work against remedying it, leaving ambitions of racial diversity unfulfilled. I demonstrate this in two ways: first, I show how the formal procedures surrounding recruitment and progression and the workload management model work as structuring mechanisms to the disadvantage of racially minoritized faculty. Second, I argue that racial injustice operates beyond these formalized, officially sanctioned sites. Drawing on Peggy McIntosh’s work on privilege I catalogue how the organizational culture of higher education is predicated on a series of normalized assumptions, behaviours and acts that serve to foreground whiteness, white comfort and white privilege as the norm. I contend that just as Whitty questions the presumption that research will automatically inform the direction, formation and enactment of policy – encouraging as he does education researchers to nonetheless maintain their ambitions unfettered solely by policy concerns – so too must this remain the case for racial justice research and those seeking to decolonize the higher education sector.

Item Type:

Book Section

Related URLs:

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Educational Studies


December 2019Accepted
1 April 2020Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

06 Jan 2020 10:13

Last Modified:

17 Aug 2020 15:39



View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)