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Louise Bennet
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A new report examining the experiences of Asian Australian academics has found 63 per cent believe they are not appropriately represented in university management.

The report Workforce Diversity in Higher Education: The Experiences of Asian Academics in Australian Universities, by Associate Professor Nana Oishi from the University of Melbourne Asia Institute, provides an overview of the representation and experiences of Asian Australian academics in Australian universities. The report, funded by a grant from Mr Jason Yeap OAM, can be read here.

The report found Asian-born academics made up 15.4 per cent of teaching and research staff at Australian universities in 2015, which is comparable to their education attainment as they comprise 16.8 per cent of PhD holders in Australia. It also found Asian-born academics’ share of positions in Australian universities increased 5.4 per cent between 2005 and 2015. 

Researchers sent online survey invitations to 2,821 potential respondents and 418 responses were received. Findings include:

•    Asian-born academics were highly represented in IT (34.4 per cent), engineering (33.3 per cent) and management and commerce (26.6 per cent) but under-represented in creative arts (5.3 per cent) and education (5.3 per cent).

•    Asian-born academics were under-represented in the most senior management positions. Only 3.4 per cent of deputy vice-chancellors were Asian-born in 2015 and there were no Asian-born vice-chancellors.

•    Most (54.3 per cent) Asian Australian academics felt their ethnic and cultural background was a disadvantage in their workplace and 58.6 per cent of Asian-born academics felt that their immigrant background was a disadvantage.

•    Among those who perceived their background as a disadvantage, 42.0 per cent experienced racism, ethnic stereotyping and/or marginalisation and 35.2 per cent felt a disadvantage in getting promotion, leadership positions and/or general recognition.

•    Asian-born academics are most highly represented in the University of New South Wales (22.5 per cent), followed by Monash University (20.3 per cent), and the University of Queensland (18.3 per cent). The University of Melbourne has the smallest percentage of Asian-born academics (3.8 per cent) among its academic staff.


•    Asian women in academia feel more disadvantaged than Asian men: 67.9 per cent of Asian-born female academics felt their immigrant background was a disadvantage in their workplace, compared with 52.7 per cent of their male counterparts. The percentage of those who felt their immigrant background had “no impact” was much higher among males (45.1 per cent) than females (27.5 per cent).


•    The paper recommends more institutional efforts to build a more inclusive workplace, including cultural sensitivity training for all staff, mentoring and ensuring diversity in all ranks. It also recommends university recruitment and promotion committees should be diversified and the processes should be more transparent and that diversity and inclusion in all ranks be codified in university policies.