Benchmarking your institution’s data against the national picture as well as other institutions can identify issues such as whether the underrepresentation of any protected group is particular to its own context or a wider concern for the sector, and identify how these might be addressed. Benchmarking can enable:
- a better understanding of your data by providing meaningful comparators and context. For example, to assess whether the proportion of a certain protected group accessing discreet services is low, normal, or high, relative to appropriate comparators.
- self-assessment of service performance.
Each year ECU produces a statistical report with a detailed analysis of national equality data returned by institutions to the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA). Institutions may find it helpful to use this data as a national benchmark.
If your institution has a large campus spread across different sites it may be useful to investigate if there are any equality issues in the take-up of different services by campus, focusing on type of course and protected group. This can help identify differences in take-up levels across the campuses to help feed into communication strategies, with students as well as with staff.
Where devolved systems are in place it may be useful to survey staff at individual academic schools to gather information about the various activities undertaken there. This can help central student services gain an understanding of what student support activities and equality and diversity projects are available remotely. This intelligence can help to identify good practice, areas of where additional support would be beneficial, and encourage a more collaborative, joined-up approach.
Satisfaction with student services
Identifying if there are differences in awareness and use of, and satisfaction with, student services by students with different protected characteristics can be particularly revealing. This can be particularly useful for instances where students might have less access or interaction with student services, for example, students studying at more remote campuses.
ECU recommends that you consider the following:
- Conduct a broad survey of the student population and then examine whether responses differ by protected characteristic. This has the benefit of providing a comparator group to ascertain whether awareness, use, and perceptions of student services differ between certain groups.
- Examine national datasets, such as the National Student Survey, at a local level to ascertain if there are differential rates of satisfaction among students of certain protected characteristics and correlate these to the open text comments they may have provided about your institution.
- Examine other ways in which awareness, use of, and satisfaction ratings can be measured by protected characteristic – through surveying the broader student population, for example, or analysing other available datasets.
Student services and related practitioners will be well versed in their understanding of students not acting as a homogenous group. The intersection of a student’s mode, level of study and discipline area with their cultural and social economic heritage, age, disability, sex, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, nationality and personal circumstances (having caring/parental responsibilities, living with parents, being a care leaver) have the potential for broad ranging implications for their interaction with your institution.
Where top-line issues are identified and cross cut against other equality data the service will have access to more granular detail which can help define if targeted activities may be appropriate.
When communicating your equality data, consider:
- Routinely sharing the information with relevant staff, working groups and committees
- Reporting on who is using the service, when, and the types of enquires they have made
- Highlighting trends and patterns of engagement
- Tailoring the information to individual faculties or departments, relevant working groups and committees
The University of Kent has re-launched a staff Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) network in order to maintain formal and informal lines of communication.
The University of Brighton has a student timeline that staff can access, which ensures that messages to different groups of students are refined and targeted at key points in the academic calendar.