Trevor Phillips voices ‘ghettoisation’ concerns

It looks like I am not the only past-President of Imperial College Union to be worried about rising racial segregation in the UK.

Trevor Phillips is probably the most famous former ICU President and is now Chairman of the UK’s Commission for Racial Equality (CRE). Not your typical race campaigner, he recently raised controversy by calling for ‘the end of multicultrualism’. Yet, in a speech he is due to give next week, leaked to the Sunday Times, Phillips expresses concern that the UK is “sleep-walking” into a “New Orleans-style Britain of passively coexisting ethnic and religious communities, eyeing each other over the fences of our differences”.

The CRE chief is apparently proposing some fairly controversial measures such as forcing overwhelmingly “white” schools in order to challenge the “invisible barriers” that are being built up in Society. There is a bit of online coverage, which you can get through a Google News search.

I think Trevor is right to be concerned but I wish he hadn’t taken a swipe at racial statistics at leading universities. Whilst I was ICU President I once wrote into the Times to counter his accusations. Racial imbalances at university reflect discrimination (be it active or passive) at an earlier age. If schools in ethnic minority ‘ghettos’ are under-performing they are not going to have the chance of an Oxbridge education. Even well-performing students in ‘ghettoised’ communities are less likely to aspire to go to such leading universities as they will have less ‘role-models’ around them.

Mr Phillips is, however, right to target schools for integration. Access to education is crucial to equality of opportunity and the promotion of an enterprise-culture. I remain vehemently opposed to ‘quotas’ and other crude (and patronising) forms of positive discrimination. However, that does not mean that we should take what steps we can to broaden access for all.

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