Equalitylink July 2011
ECU's monthly round-up of equality and diversity news, resources and our work with the sector
Welcome July 2011
Equality Challenge Unit works to further and support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education across all four nations of the UK. Equalitylink is a monthly round-up of equality and diversity news, resources and ECU’s work with the sector.
Draft specific duties further delayed
New timescales for England
The Home Office has announced that the public sector equality duty specific duties for England will now be debated in the House of Lords. Previously the government had hoped that the duties would be in force before parliament broke for summer. The debate is likely to be held in September 2011, and the duties should come into force following parliamentary approval.
In the interim period, higher education institutions (HEIs) must continue to meet the public sector equality duty, paying particular attention to demonstrating due regard throughout their functions.
Agreements aim to support equality
The Office for Fair Access (Offa) published its decision on institutional access agreements and confirmed fee levels for 2012/13 earlier this month.
ECU welcomes the commitment HEIs are making to support underrepresented students, and hopes that the agreements will help address ongoing inequalities in the sector.
ECU is in regular contact with Offa and the sector, and will continue to provide support to institutions to help all students achieve, regardless of their characteristics or background.
Religion and belief affects staff and student experiences
ECU research finds little discrimination
ECU has launched groundbreaking research into whether having a religion or belief has any impact on the experiences of staff and students in higher education.
The project, Religion and belief in HE: researching the experiences of staff and students, was carried out by a team led by Professor Paul Weller, University of Derby. The research is based on survey responses of 3077 HE staff and 3935 students, supplemented by in-depth case-study work, focus groups and interviews in a number of higher education institutions.
The report identifies a number of areas where the sector needs to undertake further work to support staff and students with a religion or belief in higher education, including developing monitoring data, making provision for different dietary requirements and considering the use of religious spaces for religious observance and graduation ceremonies. Issues were also raised about the prevalence of alcohol on campus and at events.
EHRC proposes 'reasonable accommodation' for religion
Commission to provide information to European Court of Human Rights
In a move that has caused some discussion among equality and diversity practitioners, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has proposed the idea of 'reasonable accommodation' to 'help employers and others manage how they allow people to manifest their religion or belief'.
The EHRC is proposing a change following four legal cases alleging religious discrimination in the workplace. The Commission argues that in these cases 'the courts have set the bar too high for someone to prove that they have been discriminated against because of their religion or belief; and that it is possible to accommodate expression of religion alongside the rights of people who are not religious and the needs of businesses'.
These cases are currently before the European Court of Human Rights, and EHRC has asked permission to submit advice to the courts on the interpretation of the law.
Gay-friendly higher education
Stonewall publishes annual survey
Stonewall, the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) campaigning organisation, has published an annual survey of how much information higher education institutions provide on their websites for potential students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
The guide only assesses information that is in the public domain, highlighting the benefit of including equality and diversity work in institutions' websites and prospectuses.
ECU Board changes
ECU welcomes new Joint Chairs and Board member
Professor Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University, and Professor Chris Brink, vice-chancellor of Newcastle University, have recently been elected Joint Chairs of ECU's Board of Directors.
Professor John Brooks, vice-chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, stood down from the Board at the end of his term of office on 7 July 2011 following four years as Chair.
Professor Mark Cleary, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Bradford, joins the Board as a Universities UK and GuildHE nominee.
Religion and belief event materials
Presentations from launch event available to download
ECU held a launch event for the Religion and belief in HE: researching the experiences of staff and students report in London on 11 July 2011.
The event brought together equality and diversity practitioners, human resources staff, academics and chaplains from the higher education sector, as well as national religion and belief groups and unions.
It included a presentation of the research findings and discussion of key reflective questions, which aimed to inform delegates' approaches to their ongoing work in supporting staff and students on campus.
You can download the presentation slides from the event: Religion and belief in HE: an evidence informed way forward materials
Feedback from the event will support the development of our future work on religion and belief in the sector.
Flexible retirement and extended working lives
Results of the retirement survey
ECU is working with the Oxford Brookes University Centre for diversity policy research and practice to help HEIs extend the working lives of staff and manage without a default retirement age.
Research has been undertaken within UK universities and colleges to provide an evidential base to develop policies and practices to manage the workforce without compulsory retirement.
The project has also developed case studies providing examples from HEIs in Australia and in the US where there is no compulsory retirement.
Engagement officer (further education)
Opportunity to join ECU
We wish to appoint an Engagement officer to facilitate delivery of ECU services and projects in further education, a significant element of which will be with colleges in Scotland. This one-year fixed-term post will be based in London, delivering ECU services and projects in further education, especially in Scotland.
The Scottish Funding Council has provided resources for ECU for the next 12 months to support colleges providing further education in Scotland. This is an exciting opportunity to join ECU and ensure that our services to colleges are delivered to the high standard that we achieve in higher education.
What it means to be an equality practitioner in the current HE climate
Call for participants
In light of the significant changes currently affecting the UK higher education sector the Centre for diversity and equality in careers and employment research, based at the University of East Anglia, is interested in understanding what it means to be an equality and diversity manager, diversity manager or equal opportunities practitioner in a university context within a changing climate.
The researchers are calling for volunteers to participate in an email dialogue about being an equality and diversity manager, discussing what that entails in a university setting. All the research will be carried out by email.
If you are interested in learning more about the project or becoming a participant, please email the team: email@example.com
Follow ECU on Twitter
You can now access our updates and equality news by following us on Twitter. We flag up interesting news and announcements about equality in the higher education sector, as well as letting you know what the ECU team is up to.
New students' union officers
Let your new officers know about ECU resources
ECU produces a number of resources and guidance that students' union officers and managers will find useful in their work.
Please introduce the work of ECU to your incoming students' union officers when they take up their positions in the new academic year.
You can find our student-focused information here: Students
Religion and belief in higher education
Researching the experiences of staff and students
Providing a nationwide evidence-base exploring issues around religion and belief in the staff and student experience.
The report presents a number of recommendations and identifies where the sector needs to undertake further work. It also poses reflective questions to enable individual institutions to interrogate and evaluate their current provision and approaches.
BME students' participation in HE: improving retention and success
Synthesis of research evidence
Commissioned by the Higher Education Academy, this synthesis of the research evidence on the black and minority ethnic (BME) student experience in HE covers research reports and research findings, considers implications for policy and key stakeholders, and includes a list of practical applications, other web-based resources and bibliography.
Understanding the autism spectrum
Training for HE and FE staff
The National Autism Society (NAS) is running training courses for further and higher education staff in the UK to increase awareness of autism among college and university staff. The course is run by the Prospects student and graduate team.
Attendees will learn about the possible issues facing students with autism, and find out about the practical strategies and adjustments that can be made to help students with autism to achieve their full potential.
There are upcoming dates in Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester and Plymouth. To attend an event, or to find out about organising a bespoke autism training course for your college or university, call NAS on 020 7704 7450.
Upcoming publications from ECU
Disability-focused publications to launch this summer
Over the next few months ECU will publish the following reports and guidance:
- Enabling equality: furthering disability equality for staff
- Meeting the Equality Act: learning from disability equality schemes in HE in England
- Include and inspire: inclusive sport and fitness services in HE
We will let you know when they become available. Visit our website to see the latest publications.
Come out & play 2011: transforming LGBT leadership
31 August – 2 September 2011
Come out & play is the LGBT Excellence Centre's annual conference and exhibition. Launching this year, the conference aims to become the UK's premier LGBT event attracting more than a thousand professionals over four days.
The conference audience will include senior level professionals from the voluntary sector, local authorities, NHS, education, government officials, businesses, journalists, broadcasters, politicians, athletes and the media.
Engaging people – enhancing performance: wellbeing and engagement for challenging times
9 September 2011, University of Leeds
A one-day conference exploring the evidence for the impact of wellbeing and engagement initiatives on staff performance and how the key principles can be used by institutions to support staff to cope with and thrive through change, perform to the best of their abilities and emerge as strong, resilient organisations.
Launching the final results from three years of work including findings of the Improving performance through wellbeing and engagement project, the conference aims to help institutions use existing evidence and practice from inside and outside the sector to put this agenda into action.
Women in leadership: experiences and challenges
21 October 2011, Queen's University Belfast
Queen's Gender Initiative and QUMS Leadership Institute are holding a flagship conference. Four eminent women will address this interactive event:
- Judith Gillespie, deputy chief constable, PSNI
- Maire O'Neill, professor, School of electronics, electrical engineering and computer science
- Elizabeth Pollitzer, director, Portia Ltd
- Jill Garrett, director of leadership development, Caret's Consultants
Inner worlds, outer worlds: addressing the needs of sexual minority students
10 November 2011, University of Birmingham
This conference, organised jointly by the counselling services at the University of Birmingham and Cardiff University, is aimed at all in HE and FE who are concerned to address the needs of sexual minority students on campus.
The event will bring together professionals from a wide variety of services and departments – senior management, registry staff, equality advisers, counsellors, accommodation staff, chaplains – to consider practical ways of addressing the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer students.
Equalitylink will return in September 2011
If you would like your event to be featured on our website and the next issue of Equalitylink, please email details to Anna Roberts Allison, Communications Manager.