Religion and belief
Supporting the practice and expression of religion and belief amongst staff and students
While traditionally higher and further education institutions in the UK have either had links to the Christian faith or been established as secular bodies, the growing diversity of staff and students at UK HEIs and colleges, together with the recognition of religion and belief as a protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010, has led to many institutions developing a more inclusive approach to issues of religion and belief.
The legal protection of religion and belief includes any religion, religious belief or philosophical belief including lack of religion or belief. Alongside the major religions practiced in the UK, smaller religions such as Shintoism, Jainism and a range of pagan beliefs are recognised, as well as non-religious beliefs such as atheism, agnosticism and humanism.
Case law has expanded the definition of belief and philosophies such as vegetarianism and environmentalism have been judged to be protected subject to certain criteria.
In 2011 ECU collected evidence from 3077 members of staff and 3935 students through a survey, interviews, focus groups and case studies. The research explored the religion and belief issues that were having an impact on the sector and makes recommendations to help institutions to become more confident in developing approaches that meet the needs of their diverse staff and students.
The latest national statistics on religion and belief for staff and students in higher education can be found in our statistical reports. Note that as of the 2017/8 HESA student data collection, ‘religion and belief’ will now be a compulsory return. The HESA website has further details.
ECU will be providing an updated publication as part of our work on supporting religion and belief for staff and students during 2017.
Our guidance, expected in the Autumn term of 2017/8 academic year will consolidate and update our existing guidance on this protected characteristic, with a focus on providing practical guidance, with reflective questions, case studies, and shared best practice. It will also consider intersectional approaches and challenges in regards to religion and belief, particularly regarding race and gender.
Exams, timetabling and work patterns
Our briefing Religious observance in higher education: institutional timetabling and work patterns gives for staff responsible for timetabling and examination schedules. Please note that this guidance predates the Equality Act. Updated guidance is currently being prepared.
The information below focuses on Ramadan but approaches taken will also be relevant to other religious festivals.