“Latin American.” It paints a vivid picture, doesn’t it? Sun-drenched beaches, vibrant carnivals, the melodic lilt of Spanish—a melting pot of cultures woven together. But when it comes to education and career paths, the term seems to lose its magic. Here’s the harsh reality: “Latin American” isn’t officially recognised as an ethnic group in the UK, including the national census or the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). This invisible status, hidden beneath broad categories, makes it nearly impossible to track the unique challenges faced by Latin Americans in academia and the barriers that Latin American academics face in advancing their careers.

Salsa Steps and Sunday Roast

Over the past twenty years, in my eyes, London, like many other major cities, has experienced changes and developments in the areas of equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI). As members of society, each of us contributes to forming a community characterised by respect and inclusivity, where diversity is appreciated and individuals are treated with dignity. Looking back on my childhood, this was not always the case. I recall a persistent feeling of not belonging. Having relocated from Bolivia to the UK at a young age without my family and myself not knowing English, I attempted to come off as confident and extroverted, but let’s be honest – those first few years were tough. Although London has various races and ethnicities, I was just trying to figure out where I fit as those boxes I check off on applications didn’t help. While living in Wimbledon, “Where are you from?”, “What are you?” and “Are you Asian?” are common questions I received from a very young age. Despite feeling out of place in a predominantly white primary school based in a primarily white area, I taught myself to ignore this.

However, looking back, I realise that my secondary school experience was a turning point in my life. I had landed in a school that was unlike any other. It was a melting pot of cultures, backgrounds and beliefs, and it was this diversity that made it so special. Almost every one of my friends was Black, Asian, Latino, and European or the child of immigrant parents. Even if someone’s officially British, born and bred in the UK, there’s this automatic connection to their parent’s home countries—it’s just what’s expected. I’ve never really heard anyone proudly declare, “I’m British,” even if, technically, they are. Everyone was proud of their heritage. And at that moment, it clicked—I finally felt like I truly belonged. 

Our Barriers to Integration

A “recent study” in the UK shed light on the perception of discrimination among Latin Americans, revealing that 69% of them identified it as a prevalent issue. Notably, Bolivians expressed the highest sense of being discriminated against (78%), with men identifying with discrimination slightly more than women (72% versus 66%). The younger demographic was most vocal about identifying instances of discrimination, hitting a rate of 73%. Surprisingly, even among those with British passports, 71% recognised discrimination, hinting at a more entrenched issue beyond legal status. 

The “challenges” faced by the Latin American community in London have become significant obstacles to integration. 

  •  50% of the Latin American respondents highlighted language barriers, with 58% pointing to the struggle to speak English as their main hurdle.
  •  25% emphasised immigration status, specifically the challenges in regularising and securing permanent residency in London.
  • 8%, mainly Bolivians, were particularly stressed about landing decent jobs or higher education. 

One clear takeaway was the strong “demand” for better English language skills, voiced by over a third of the participants (38%), emphasising the importance of improving language proficiency. On the flip side, Bolivians were primarily focused on navigating immigration status concerns.

Beyond workplace exploitation, a significant quarter of respondents also pointed to educational disadvantages. A “survey” delved deeper into university life, exposing that 24% of students from ethnic minority backgrounds reported experiencing racial harassment since the start of their courses. This figure represents 13% of the total student population currently enrolled in British universities, highlighting the ongoing nature of this problem.

Conquering Your Study Adventure at the Univeristy of Westminster

Contemplating the leap to London for your higher education? It might feel a tad overwhelming, but starting your academic journey at Westminster ensures you’re in good hands. With an almost “20,000-strong student community representing 165 countries, teaching and research staff coming from more than 80 countries”, the university forms a genuinely diverse and international community, embodying the core values of Westminster. 

Embarking on my personal journey as a Marketing Communications student at Westminster turned out to be even more diverse than my experience in secondary school. It compelled me to engage with individuals whom I never would before. You will find yourself exploring the various cultural campus societies where you’ll find individuals with similar interests or the same heritage ready to welcome and accompany you on this exciting journey. The professors? They’re not just fonts of knowledge; they’re passionate mentors who’ll ignite your curiosity and push you to reach your full potential.

Going forward – Strengthening equality, diversity, and inclusion

Having identified common challenges, here are four “suggestions” to foster positive change at Westminster and Higher Education:

  1. Tackle language barriers: Organising information and advice events in community venues. Consider involving Latin American students or those studying Spanish to act as interpreters.
  2. Empowering Latin American students to secure and declare their citizenship status: This may involve guiding families towards pro bono legal assistance or providing support for the child citizenship fee, perhaps through initiatives like the Citizenship Payment Plan.
  3. UCAS Recognition: Advocate for official recognition of Latin American students by bodies like UCAS.
  1. Ensure visibility of Latin Americans in various roles within Higher Education: Institutions should actively support Latin American academics in building a prominent profile and participating in outreach efforts. This will underscore Latinx individuals’ crucial roles in the UK’s daily higher education operations.

This blog is a call to action. Let’s shine a light on the hidden struggles of Latin Americans in academia. Let’s collect the data, amplify the voices, and dismantle the barriers brick by brick. Behind the vibrant label lies a story waiting to be told so that the path to academic success becomes paved with opportunity, not obstacles.


Imperial News. (2021). Recognition, visibility, and inclusion for Latin America at Imperial | Imperial News | Imperial College London. [online] Available at: https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/229854/recognition-visibility-inclusion-latin-america-imperial/. [Accessed 6 Jan. 2024].

Mcilwaine, C., Cock, J. and Linneker, B. (n.d.). Servicio por los Derechos de la Mujer Latinoamericana Servicio por los Derechos de la Mujer Latinoamericana. [online] Available at:https://www.qmul.ac.uk/geog/media/geography/docs/research/latinamerican/No-Longer-Invisible-report.pdf [Accessed 6 Jan.2024].

Mcilwaine, C. and Bunge, D. (2016). Towards visibility: the Latin American community in London. [online] Available at: https://trustforlondon.fra1.digitaloceanspaces.com/media/documents/Towards-Visibility-full-report_QqkSbgl.pdf [Accessed 6 Jan. 2024].

Robertson, A. (2019). ‘No Soy Other’ – A Spotlight on Latinx young people in the UK. [online] CfEY. Available at: https://cfey.org/2019/11/no-soy-other-a-spotlight-on-latinx-young-people-in-the-uk/ [Accessed 6 Jan. 2024].

Tackling racial harassment: Universities challenged equalityhumanrights.com. (n.d.). Available at: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/sites/default/files/tackling-racial-harassment-universities-challenged.pdf [Accessed 6 Jan.2024].

Westminster.ac.uk. (n.d.). Global community | University of Westminster, London. [online] Available at: https://www.westminster.ac.uk/about-us/our-university/global-westminster/global-community#:~:text=With%20a%20student%20body%20of [Accessed 6 Jan. 2024].