I found the following article on the Internet:

What is the situation in the case of acadamia?

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    Go on over to your preferred university and look through a faculty list. Focus on STEM departments. See how many have non-English names (particularly the assistant professors). Come back with data.
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 22 at 19:16
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    I think this is probably impossible to answer with any reasonable evidence. Anecdotally, my university (UK) has many academic and senior administrative staff with Muslim-sounding names including half (2/4) of our faculty Associate Deans and our University Pro-Vice-Chancellor for academic affairs. There are certainly a range of biases that come into play in the hiring process, it's difficult to say if this is a significant one or not.
    – atom44
    Sep 22 at 20:00
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    @JonCuster: I think that data would be of very limited assistance unless it were backed up with data on the names of applicants, and other details. Knowing the number of Muslim names in the faculty doesn't even give you baseline proportions compared to applicants without the latter data.
    – Ben
    Sep 23 at 4:12
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    @Ben - I agree that it is not data, but would quickly show if, in fact, there is a major problem. And, frankly, what is a "Muslim sounding" name in this day and age anyway?
    – Jon Custer
    Sep 23 at 14:43
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    @Ben Simply knowing the proportions do not show causal relation neither.
    – Greg
    Sep 23 at 16:36

3 Answers 3


I estimate that not only it is not harmful on average to have a Muslim name in the UK academic job market (on average), but that it is a clear advantage.

"Diversity hires" are becoming more important to many departments, and regulatory requirements are put on faculties to adhere to these requirements. To my understanding, these regulatory requirements (at the university level or above) sometimes come with diversity targets, i.e., percentage of "diversity" candidates that are to be interviewed and possibly recruited (this is my understanding of the term "diversity targets"---i.e., that the target is a number. Some people in the comments claim there are no rigid numbers). Diversity candidates are clearly tagged in (some) recruitment cycles by different categories: BAME (black, Asian, Middle-Eastern), female, etc. Recruitment cycles are then audited for upholding diversity targets of this sort (again, it is my understanding that if a department does not uphold a certain minimal target (i.e., percentage. Just for example, only 5% are foreigners, or 5% are female) of "diversity" interviews, they will have to justify this in the audit and they may not be able to; therefore, departments are pressured in this way to fulfil a minimal number of "diversity interviews").

If you have a clearly "foreign name" (Middle Eastern) in the UK it thus definitely counts as a diversity-point in favour of your candidacy. If you are also a female Muslim, my estimation is that you have a very good chance of being at least interviewed, assuming some minimal credential requirements are fulfilled.

Important comment: although diversity points can help in general, my estimation is that the major advantage a candidate has is not their ethnic/religious identity, but how well they are connected to people with influence inside the department, be it collaborator, colleague, or someone who comes from the same "clique" of colleagues.


The way to obtain such numbers is by submitting application documents to job posting that are identical other than the name of the applicant. If the documents are sent to enough prospective employers and a statiscally significant difference is found, this can indeed be attributed to the name quite well.

This methodology does not work for faculty positions, as the nature of job applications is different. You can't just create a duplicate publication record of this kind. In many cases, successful applicants will be known to someone at the target university from conference talks, publications or collaborations.

One could compare numbers such as "fraction of students in discipline X with Muslim-sounding name" to "fraction of faculty in discipline X with Muslim-sounding name", but there are many differences between the makeup of the student population and faculty members, and firm conclusions will remain elusive that way.

So what can we say? There are plenty of academics in the UK with Muslim-sounding names, so such a name is not an unsurmountable disadvantage. Getting a job in academia is hard no matter what your name is. On the other hand, academia does not stand apart from the rest of society. It would be highly surprising if it is completely free from the anti-Muslim-sounding-name-bias found elsewhere.

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    "This methodology does not work for faculty positions" Pretty good studies have been done for gender discrimination in faculty hiring. You just give your fake hiring committee consisting of faculty some CVs which are quite similar except for gender. Then you find discrimination. Sep 22 at 22:11
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    @AnonymousPhysicist That sounds like a lab experiment, not one in the wild. I definitely consider the results from this strong evidence for discrimination, but I'd hesitate to trust that specific numbers ("three times more likely") translate to real appointment procedures.
    – Arno
    Sep 22 at 22:21
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    @AnonymousPhysicist Unlike in industry, faculty hiring basically assumes that an applicant has a public track record in the form of publications, a website, speaking engagements, etc, all of which will be evaluated and checked (at least in some informal way) during hiring. Submitting a fake CV is not likely going to lead to any interviews at all, Muslim name or not. Sep 22 at 22:38
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    @paul garrett: I have to admit I didn't think of this -- and thus we have an example for the phrase "unintended consequences" (or its stronger version, "collateral damage") -- but for what it's worth, if I had thought of it I still would have posted those links! (But probably with a nod towards the extra work of hiring committees having to look through all those documents, and yes, I'm thinking of this current (U.S.) issue). Sep 23 at 17:30
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    @AnonymousPhysicist: No, I don't need to google all hundreds of applicants. Search committees sort out those that don't rise to the top 20 or so right away. Once you're done to 20, you start to discuss the ones that are left, look at their publications in more detail, discuss them in committee. You will find fake profiles at this stage, and they get sorted out as well. As for websites: "The vast majority of faculty have never had their own website." I think you need to do an empirical study at a randomly selected department at an R1 university. You will find yourself wrong. yesterday

I'll make two observations about academia, though they aren't specific to UK.

First, as a group (and with exceptions), academics are generally less prejudiced than the overall population. My own view is that diversity is a strength and that if I want to learn something new, it is good to talk to people not just like myself.

Second, in a large university in a country with a diverse population, as I think is true of UK, there is value in having role models for students that they can directly relate to. This is, in a way, the flip side of the first observation. But it implies that a diverse faculty is helpful when it matches a diverse student body.

I conclude from the above that having a "foreign sounding" name, whether Muslim, or Nigerian, or Chinese is one of the lesser impediments to an academic career than having, say, a poor publication record or few people willing to recommend you highly. Yes, you will find discrimination, but I'd guess that it is more likely to be manifest outside the university than inside. We have a lot to learn, even in the twenty-first century.

I'll also note that it is good for "majority culture" students to see and learn from competent professionals from other cultures. That might even help us reach the twenty-second century.

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