Large abroad | Determined to make his mark - Professor Paul Miller overcomes classroom racism to rise in UK education system
Professor Paul Miller has broken down many barriers on his way to being appointed professor of educational leadership and management at the University of Huddersfield in the United Kingdom (UK), a post he will officially take up in September.
Said to be one of the first black academics to be appointed to professorship in the field of educational leadership and management in the UK, Miller started out as a high-school teacher where he faced the ugly reality of what it means to be black in a foreign land.
"Working in one North London secondary high school, I was told by a pupil, 'Get out of my country you (expletive deleted) dirty migrant.' Although the school has an anti-racist policy which sets out that racial slur towards any staff or student would result in expulsion, the pupil was only reprimanded," Miller shared with The Gleaner.
A native of Clarendon, Miller started his formal teaching career in 1998 at Tacius Golding High School and was later recruited to the UK to teach in 2003. After completing his terminal degree at the University of London in 2008, the Clarendon College graduate made his transition into higher education.
SHADOWS OF RACISM
Even with the numerous qualifications he had amassed and lofty ideals of wanting to pursue opportunities to contribute to the development of evidence-based policy, through research at the tertiary level, the shadows of racism still haunted his professional life.
"At the level of the academy, black and minority ethnic academics have to work 100 times harder and the hidden criteria are more frequently applied in progression/ promotion. People assume that because you are black you are 'another student or a cleaner', but not the lecturer, since the lecturer is usually generally perceived to be white," he said.
Despite the undercurrent of racial discrimination he faced as a lecturer at Middlesex University, Miller was determined to make his mark in the area of educational leadership and returned to Jamaica as UTech's, and the country's,
first professor of educational leadership and management. That stint, however, lasted only 18 months, and according to Miller, the decision to leave ranks as high as one of the most difficult experiences of his professional life.
Having successfully interviewed for a post at Brunel University, Miller returned to the UK, a move that catapulted his rise up the academic ladder. True to the academic creed to publish or perish, he has produced more than 60 publications, which include his newly launched book Exploring School Leadership in England & the Caribbean: New Insights from a Comparative Approach.
The editor for several international educational journals is also the first black male to be appointed to the 22-member council of the British Educational Leadership Administration Society. A member of the board of the Commonwealth Council for Educational Administration and Management, Miller is the first academic in Brunel University's 50 years of existence to be appointed principal fellow of the UK's Higher Education Academy.
As he takes up his new post at the University of Huddersfield, Miller admits that it has been an uphill task reaching the heights of the academic ladder in the UK. He landed the position after submitting eight applications and going through four interviews. He will now be one of 26 professors in the area of educational leadership and management.
"I am very humbled by this appointment that brings with it enormous responsibility. Primarily, it says that if you work hard and push back against the challenges of place and space, you will eventually succeed. This appointment also offers hope and, I hope, inspiration to black students and to migrants especially, at all levels in the UK's education system," he said.