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Advancing equality and diversity in universities and colleges


Learning session 1

Day 1: 11.30am - 1.00pm

You can choose one of the following learning sessions:

A: Panel of papers: Overcoming barriers and taking action

Paper 1: The last line of defence and leading from the front – developing boards of governance. >

Stephanie Millar and David Bass, Equality Challenge Unit (ECU)

Themes: governance; leadership; institutional development; Equality Challenge Unit 

Governing bodies are responsible for ensuring their institutions fulfil their responsibilities under the Equality Act and as part of the specific duties of the Act, must set out an action plan for diversifying their membership in all protected characteristics. There is also a drive in Scotland to ensure that governing bodies are representative with a voluntary 50/50 by 2020 scheme to improve the gender balance of boards and the Scottish government is considering legislation to support this.

The paper will discuss how the sector is leading on and developing diversity in leadership. It will explore successes so far in relation to gender, what we’re learning about the importance of unconscious bias, and how to engage and diversify governing bodies in relation to ethnicity, disability, age and other protected characteristics. How positive action is being used to make these important but often challenging changes to public appointments will be considered.

The paper will bring together learning, experience and examples from universities, colleges and the wider public sector. It will explore:

  • understanding unconscious bias in governance and recruitment
  • using positive action in elections and for non-appointed members
  • increasing diversity beyond gender

Paper 2: Success against the odds: mentoring and support networks in the careers of black and minority ethnic academics in higher education. >

Professor Kalwant Bhopal (University of Birmingham) and Dr Hazel Brown (University of Winchester)

Themes: BME academics; mentoring; support networks; career progression

In this paper we explore the effect of mentoring and support networks on the career progression of black and minority ethnic academics (BME).

Recent statistics suggest that black and minority ethnic academics continue to be under represented in senior decision making roles in higher education institutions (ECU, 2016). There is also evidence to suggest that mentoring programmes can enhance career progression and result in positive outcomes for staff development (Peters and Ryan, 2015). However, there is little research which has explored the effect of mentoring on the career progression of BME academics.

This paper attempts to redress that balance. It is based on mixed methods research funded by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. The main aims of the study were to analyse sources of support and strategies that BME academics used in their roles. The findings demonstrate that universities must invest in mentoring schemes which address the specific challenges faced by BME academics. The paper also addresses aspects of intersectionality and how different identities affect access to mentoring and support networks.

We suggest that if higher education institutions are serious about addressing BME inclusion, they must demonstrate a clear commitment to investing in schemes which address such inequalities.

Paper 3: Respect at BU. >

Dr James Palfreman-Kay and Charlie Souter-Philips, Bournemouth University

Themes: Dignity and respect policy; Good Lad; hate crime; forum theatre; Prejudice Free Dorset

This paper will talk about the work undertaken within and outside Bournemouth University (BU and its Students’ Union (SUBU) to promote both organisations’ core strategic commitments to equality and diversity through creating an inclusive campus whether individuals are studying, working or visiting BU.

For on campus work, there will be a focus on:

  • How a programme of forum theatre work has been used to support the launch of the new dignity and respect policy
  • Sharing of the ‘Good Lad’ programme of events
  • The development and launch of the ‘Respect at BU’ campaign

The paper will also talk about the work undertaken with Prejudice Free Dorset which is a partnership organisation that seeks to promote inclusive communities across Dorset. This part of the paper will focus on:

  • The role BU and SUBU has with Prejudice Free Dorset
  • The development of the shared BU and SUBU hate crime guidance
  • Attempts to provide a co-ordinated response to incidents of hate crime, whether they occur on or off-campus

The paper will conclude with how BU and SUBU are working together to progress the ‘Respect at BU’ work during 2017/18 and onwards.

B: Workshop: Travelling to trans inclusivity.

Marije Davidson and Nic Streatfield, York St John University

Themes: Transgender; gender identity; inclusivity; holism; involvement

In this workshop we will engage in a collaborative exchange of ways to becoming a trans-inclusive institution. Through activities, participants will develop a shared understanding of what becoming a trans-inclusive institution involves, what are the challenges and opportunities and what works (and does not). We will use our experiences of our ongoing journey to facilitate discussion and offer practical tips.

Like other institutions, York St John has seen an increase in trans students seeking visibility and support. We found that our 2010 trans equality policy and guidance was not fit for purpose, and set up a task and finish group to work towards becoming a trans-inclusive institution. What started off as a fairly low-key journey, became one of inspiration and learning: it has made us reflect on the meaning of ‘inclusivity’ and unwrap ‘privilege’; we’ve had to tackle issues e.g. dealing with systems and trans students’ expectations (sometimes unsuccessfully); and we’ve come to appreciate ways to garner university-wide and local community buy-in and support.

We will collate the contributions to create a map of actions that members can use to achieve trans inclusivity in their institution. This workshop will be relevant for any institution wherever they are on their journey.

C: Workshop: Curriculum co-creation: as a transformative strategy to enhance student success.

Dr Annie Hughes, Dr Helen Potkin, Christine Michener and Kamal Mohamed, Kingston University

Themes: Co-creation; inclusive university; inclusive curriculum; student differentials

Whilst academics remain the principal gatekeepers of curricula in higher education, there is a growing recognition of the role that students can play in its co-creation and how, in turn, this contributes to teaching excellence (McCulloch, 2009; Willis and Gregory, 2016).

This workshop considers the role that curriculum co-creation can play in building an inclusive university. It recognises that inclusive and accessible curricula, including learning, teaching and assessment practices, have a fundamental role in addressing differentials in retention, progression and attainment experienced by different student groups from a range of protected characteristics (HEFCE, 2015). It considers co-creation as a transformative strategy in creating a more meaningful, relevant and student-centred learning experience for our contemporary diverse student body.

The workshop will i) explore the case for co-creation ii) examine its potential contribution to the success of students from a wide range of backgrounds iii) confront the challenges surrounding its implementation iv) reflect on curriculum co-creation as a strategy to progress the equality, diversity and inclusion agenda in higher education.

The facilitators will draw on case-studies from their own institution to exemplify how the application of the principles of co-creation can form a central pillar in a university’s inclusion strategy.

D: Workshop: Emotional labour: building contexts for open and rigorous discussion of (in)equality in higher education.

Duna Sabri, King’s College London.

Themes: Emotional labour; assumptions; constructive dialogue

This workshop will draw on ‘feeling rules’, ‘emotion management’ and suppression,  (Hochschild 2003),  to explore the emotional labour of participating in discussions of inequality in higher education, especially in relation to race, ethnicity and religious faith.

Practitioners in equality and diversity (whether specialists or seconded staff) address sensitive and emotionally charged issues with colleagues, often for prolonged periods with little recognition of the personal psychological cost to themselves.  On the other hand, staff who teach or support students’ learning, not specialists in equality and diversity, are expected to discuss these issues publicly and are often operating within what they perceive as prescribed ways of responding, for example performing ‘outrage’ to news of disparity in the outcomes of students from different ethnic groups.  All participants in these discussions are themselves socially positioned – in terms of ethnicity, gender, class, religious stance, disability and sexual orientation.  Seeing the work of bringing about open and rigorous discussion of inequality through the analytic lens of emotional labour may help to navigate these often challenging and complex interactions.

Participants will be asked to identify assumptions and feeling rules that underlie quotations, and how they might respond in ways that promote open and rigorous debate.