Black female student holding degree and smiling at graduation ceremony


Black Female Professors in Higher Education

Welcome to Week 4 of BHM 2023!

Professor Diamond Ashiagbor

Black Female Professors in Higher Education University of Kent Black Female Professor, Diamond Ashiagbor

As of December 1st, 2020, there were 224,530 academic staff members employed in UK higher education institutions, excluding atypical staff. Among the 22,855 professors, 6,510 (28%) were women, consistent with the previous year. Of the total academic staff, 17% were EU nationals, while 15% were non-UK nationals from non-EU countries. The majority of academic staff were White (89%), with 7% being Asian.

In terms of Black representation, only 160 professors (1%) were Black, out of which 61 were Black women. As we commemorate Black History – ‘saluting our sisters’, it is crucial to address the underrepresentation of Blacks in academia, particularly Black women, and the resulting barriers to career advancement and professorship. The empirical evidence highlights the urgency in today’s world, to go beyond headlines, surface-level, and endless discussions and actively push for accelerating the implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education and other domains, with reference to quantitative metrics and qualitative narratives.

Category 2016/17 2017/18 2018/19 2019/20 2020/21
Source of basic salary
Wholly general financed by the provider 158,375 163,010 169,790 174,265 174,940
All other sources of finance 48,495 48,970 47,275 49,260 49,590
Academic employment function
Teaching only 56,130 61,050 66,355 72,540 72,970
Teaching and research 100,165 100,120 98,600 98,085 98,630
Research only 49,085 49,515 50,855 51,510 51,375
Neither teaching nor research 1,490 1,290 1,255 1,390 1,555
Contract level
Professor 20,550 20,940 21,520 22,810 22,855
Other senior academic 6,050 6,175 6,185 6,115 6,220
Other contract level 180,270 184,860 189,360 194,600 195,455
Terms of employment
Open-ended/permanent 137,025 141,035 144,315 148,945 151,920
Fixed-term contract 69,850 70,945 72,750 74,580 72,610
Total 206,870 211,980 217,065 223,525 224,530


As universities experience an increasingly diverse student body, it becomes essential to have a teaching academics that reflects this diversity. Creating a diverse staff is crucial for promoting inclusivity and creating a student-centered educational environment. This entails not only increasing the representation of Black female professors, but also other ethnic minorities. Representation is important. When students of color see lecturers who resemble them with shared experiences, a sense of belonging and acceptance on campus is fostered. Consequently, this can positively impact Student Success and overall retention.

Black professors have a significant and positive impact on higher education. They bring their unique perspectives, experiences, and expertise to the classroom, enriching the learning experience for all students. Black professors also serve as role models and mentors to Black students, helping them to succeed academically and professionally. Black professors in higher education can have a significant and multifaceted impact on the academic community, students, and the broader society. Here are some specific areas of the impact of Black professors in higher education:

  • Diverse Perspectives | Institutional Change

They contribute to a more diverse and inclusive curriculum. Black professors are more likely to teach courses on race, ethnicity, and social justice, which are essential for all students to learn about.

  • Representation and Diversity| Mentorship | Student Success

They also bring their own unique cultural perspectives to their teaching, which can help students develop a better understanding of the world around them. They improve academic outcomes for Black students. Research has shown that Black students who have Black professors are more likely to graduate from university and earn higher grades. This is likely due to a number of factors, including increased role modelling, mentoring, and cultural understanding.

  • Inspiring All Students| Role Models| Social Justice and Equity

They create a more welcoming and inclusive campus climate. Black professors can help to create a more welcoming and inclusive campus climate for all students, regardless of their race or ethnicity. They can do this by serving as role models, mentors, and advocates for Black students, and by working to create a more equitable and just campus community.

  • Research and Scholarship | Global Perspective | Community Engagement

In addition to these specific impacts, Black professors also play a vital role in advancing knowledge and scholarship. They conduct research on a wide range of topics, including race, ethnicity, social justice, and the Black diaspora. Their work helps to expand our understanding of the world and to promote social change.

While Black professors make significant impacts and many positive contributions to higher education, it is important to note that there are still challenges and disparities in representation and support for the larger Black community. These include issues such as underrepresentation, pay gaps, and barriers to career advancement. Efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in academia require urgent action.

Black female lecturers are crucial to the academic success of all students in higher education. I’m optimistic! Look at that smile and pure joy on the face of one of our Kent students who graduated this July. I believe she is on her way to greatness, perhaps another Black female professor in the making…

Black female graduate posing for photo at graduation ceremony

I hope this #KNOWLEDGESHIFT about BHM 2023 has inspired you in some way and enhanced your understanding of Black culture and its people. The blog series has explored various topics such as Black hair, African talking drums, Black cuisine, and Black female professors in higher education. I invite you to make room for one another, every culture, and ethnicity – there are galaxies yet to be explored. It’s the Human Race, not colour race. Thank you!