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Advancing equality and diversity in universities and colleges


Mainstreaming

Ensuring equality, diversity and inclusion sit at the heart of culture and operational delivery.

Mainstreaming sets out to effect both cultural and systemic change in an organisation so that an equality perspective is integrated into its day-to-day working across all functions.

It is a long-term, strategic approach to ensuring that equality, diversity and inclusion sit at the heart of an institution’s culture and operational delivery. It is not a quick fix, but requires time, resources, the support of specialist staff and the commitment of senior management.

Mainstreaming is an effective way to ensure that the whole institution is delivering on its public sector equality duty. In Scotland, there is a specific duty for institutions to mainstream equality across their functions.

Approaches to mainstreaming

Many institutions will need to undertake significant cultural change in order to achieve mainstreaming of equality and diversity. Although there is no single way of creating change, the following approaches have been demonstrated to facilitate cultural change across an institution.

  • A holistic approach is required rather than considering aspects of an institution’s delivery in isolation.
  • Change will be required at both institutional and individual levels. Address policies and processes to ensure support at all levels, and work with individuals to promote positive attitudes and changes in practice.
  • Changes may have to be made to allow the development of different approaches within the same operational framework.
  • A robust evidence base is an essential platform for mainstreaming work, drawing on both internal and external research and data.
  • No single solution will result in mainstreaming. A range of tools or strategies will need to be employed simultaneously.
  • There needs to be support from the highest level within the institution in order to create the impetus for change and drive its implementation.

Quality and equality

In colleges, embedding equality in quality processes, such as annual self evaluation processes, has been an important focus of mainstreaming work. ECU published guidance to support colleges in this:

Mainstreaming programmes

ECU has provided mainstreaming programmes to support for institutions in Scotland to meet the specific duty to mainstream equality.

Teams of staff from colleges and universities have used action learning to help plan and implement mainstreaming work:

  • across a particular function, such as admissions or governance
  • through using particular tools, such as staff development
  •  through an institution-wide approach

Toolkits from the mainstreaming programme:

Final reports from the mainstreaming programme:

The most recent programmes have supported institutions to mainstream the development and delivery of their equality outcomes, set to meet the Scottish specific duties. For colleges, this has particularly aimed to help them to meet their duties while they prepared and began to move to new regional structures.