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Equalitylink November - December 2011

ECU's monthly round-up of equality and diversity news, resources and our work with the sector

Equalitylink from Equality Challenge Unit

Welcome November - December

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.

Equality update

REF and maternity leave

Reduction of outputs decided

Following a consultation on the Research Excellence Framework (REF) draft panel criteria and working methods the REF team announced an early decision on the arrangements for taking account of maternity leave in the REF.

Researchers may reduce the number of outputs in a submission by one for each period of maternity leave taken during the REF period. This will ensure that more women have the chance to be included in REF submissions. The news was welcomed by ECU as a significant step towards recognising the impact of pregnancy and maternity on women’s careers.

Further details of these arrangements, including arrangements for paternity and adoption leave, will be published as part of the final REF panel criteria and working methods, in January 2012.

REF and equality

Equality Act 2010: Deadline for publishing information

31 January deadline for English HEIs

English higher education institutions (HEIs) must publish information to demonstrate compliance with the equality duty no later than 31 January 2012.

This must include information relating to:

  • people who share a relevant protected characteristic who are employees (if the HEI has 150 employees or more)
  • other people affected by policies and practices. This will include students, alumni and service users, for example.

ECU’s briefing on the implications of the specific duties for English HEIs outlines issues to consider, links to resources and examples of what HEIs could collect and publish.

Public sector equality duties for England

Consultation on the Scottish public sector equality duty

Revised draft regulations

ECU responded to the consultation on the draft revisions to the public sector equality duty in Scotland, broadly welcoming the revisions.

Following feedback from our Scottish HEI Liaison Group, our response strongly highlights the need for clear guidance on all the regulations, and for consideration to be given to service users and those affected by policies and practices.

ECU's response to the consultation

Analysing impact of policies is key

Court case highlights importance of analysis in demonstrating due regard

A recent case highlights the importance of analysing information in demonstrating due regard to the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010.

The case of R (Green and others) v Gloucestershire County Council and Somerset Council challenged the decision of the councils to close public libraries. It was ruled that although impact assessments were conducted, the information gathered as part of the process was not analysed sufficiently enough to provide detail of the full impact of closures to libraries on protected groups.

It therefore remains important that HEIs gather enough information on their staff and students to give a full picture of how their policies and practices affect them, in order to meet their duties under the Equality Act.

Details of the case

ECU’s briefing on the English and Welsh specific duties gives examples of types of information to collect:

Public sector equality duty: specific duties for England

Public sector equality duty: specific duty for Wales

OIA Pathway 3 consultation

Early resolution of complaints on campus

The Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA) is currently seeking views from the HE sector on building effective strategies to improve early resolution of complaints and appeals, and better case handling on campus.

The issues include:

  • the creation of campus ombudsmen and associated support networks
  • the development of mediation on campus
  • the creation of a good practice framework for complaints and appeals processes
  • the development of an OIA kite mark accreditation
  • the introduction of a revised funding mechanism

Respond to the consultation

Closing date: 16 December 2011

Specific duties quick start guide

GEO guide published

The Government Equalities Office has published a quick start guide to help public bodies understand and implement the specific duties which support the equality duty of the Equality Act 2010.

Download the guide

EHRC strategic plan

Consultation open on Commission’s role

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has opened a consultation to help develop a strategic plan for 2012-15.

ECU will be responding to this consultation from our perspective of an organisation concerned with advancing equality for individuals in higher and further education.

EHRC strategic plan consultation

Closing date: 12 December 2011

Our work

REF and equality resources

Supporting equality in the REF2014

ECU has been commissioned by the four UK funding councils to develop materials for panels, subpanels and units of assessment to support them in meeting the equality requirements of the Research Excellence Framework 2014 assessment framework and guidance on submissions.

REF and equality

Current materials include:

  • Guidance on developing a code of practice
  • Key differences between the RAE and REF code of practice
  • Guidance on equality impact assessments and the REF

REF materials

Further materials to be added include:

  • Staff disclosure form template
  • Guidance and examples of complex circumstances (following the publication of the final panel criteria and working practices in 2012)

Key equality issues for international students

Attracting international students research complete

Research for ECU’s project looking at international students and equality is now complete and some key issues have emerged.

  • Multi-service working: Services need to collaborate and communicate more effectively
  • Communication: International students are often not aware of their rights and entitlements in relation to equality. Services need to be advertised to students, and academic and teaching staff should be apprised of support available.
  • Disability: There was inequity in disability support and provision between home and international students. Low disclosure of mental health conditions appears to be a key issue.
  • Finance: need for understanding of varied circumstances of students coming from different countries. There is a clear disparity in hardship fund provision between home and international students.
  • Support for students with dependants: particular support may be required providing family accommodation, and information on signposting to local services.
  • Alcohol: social spaces and activities are heavily focused on alcohol which impacts on interactions between home and international students.
  • Careers and employability: general satisfaction but could provide more assistance with finding part time work and volunteering opportunities.
  • Staff attitudes to diversity and difference: importance of training frontline staff on interacting with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • Local communities: most students are not actively involved in their local communities, particularly international students, and HEIs could do more to foster links.

The research was undertaken at the University of Edinburgh, University of St Andrews, University of Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt University, Robert Gordon University and Glasgow School of Art.

Guidance will be produced in spring 2012 including examples of inclusive practice found in the Scottish sector during the research, and recommendations for areas of development to improve the international student experience.

Attracting international students

Equality in HE: statistics report 2011

Report to be published shortly

ECU’s annual report into equality statistics across all staff and students in higher education will be published shortly.

Equality in higher education: statistical report 2011 presents an equality-focused analysis of information on staff and students that HEIs provided to the Higher Education Statistics Agency for the 2009/10 academic year, plus a year-on-year comparison showing the progress of equality across the sector since 2003/04.

This is ECU’s most detailed statistical report so far, and has been split into two parts.

Part 1: Staff includes data on senior management post holders, analyses non-UK national staff by ethnicity and provides an overview of national variations. For the first time the report looks at the interplay of multiple identities (for example, female black staff or disabled male staff), with a specific focus on professorial status.

Part 2: Students includes data on disabled students’ allowance, continuation rates, degree attainment and provides an overview of national variations. This report also looks at the interplay of multiple identities with a specific focus on differences in degree attainment.

Copies of the report will be distributed to equality and diversity practitioners and human resources leads in the next few weeks.

The report will also be available to download from our website from 8 December 2011.

ECU publications

ECU annual sector survey

Thanks for your response

We would like to thank everyone who has taken the time to complete our inaugural sector survey into the impact of ECU and how we can further support your work.

We will be analysing the results shortly, and your comments will inform the development of new projects and resources.

We will present some of the findings in our Annual report out early next year.

Christmas office closure

ECU will be closed on Friday 23 December, reopening on Wednesday 4 January 2012.

Get involved

International staff survey

Tell us your experiences

ECU would like to thank all institutions who have disseminated our international staff survey to their colleagues so far.

This survey is for international staff who work in any role in an HEI across all four UK countries. We want people to complete the survey regardless of whether they moved to the UK for their current role, or for other reasons, and are looking to hear from people whose ‘domicile’ of origin is not the UK.

We would appreciate it if you could forward the survey to your staff networks and encourage as many international staff to take part, if you haven’t done so already.

Follow the link for further details: Supporting international staff in HE

We are also looking for examples of good practice where institutions have implemented something specifically aimed at supporting their international staff.

If your institution has something to share, whether it’s a successful initiative or lessons learned from something less successful, then we’d really like to hear from you.

Email Claire Herbert, Senior Policy Adviser, or phone: 020 7438 1016

Scottish colleges

Call for participants

ECU will be working with a number of colleges over the next few months to understand how they build equality and diversity considerations into their existing reporting structures.

Currently colleges have to report to the Scottish Funding Council in an annual statement setting out arrangements for quality assurance and enhancement. This includes the completion of a self-evaluation and an analysis on institution-led activities, including teaching programmes and key college functions.

We’re looking for colleges in Scotland who are willing to share their experience of equality and diversity within reporting structures and quality assessment processes, and to help us identify good practice across the sector.

Participants will be asked to respond to a number of questions (circulated in advance) in a telephone interview.

Email Fatima Choudhury, Engagement Officer (FE) or phone 020 7438 1028 for more information.

Mature students

NUS and Million+ survey

This UK-wide mature student survey created by Million+ and NUS explores the academic and social experience of mature students in higher education, motivations for study and views about support needs.

Encouraging mature students to take the survey, which will help make the case for improved provision for mature students.

The survey is open to all mature students who started their course over the age of 21 taking their first undergraduate degree in a UK university or further education college. Those who complete the survey will have the chance to win a £50 Amazon voucher or one of five £10 vouchers.

Mature student survey

If you have any questions about the survey, please contact Debbie McVitty (NUS) or Katy Morris (Million+)

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


Resources and support

Meeting the Equality Act

Learning from disability equality schemes in higher education in England

This report is based on research into how higher education institutions in England had been using their disability equality schemes as vehicles for change, and to establish what more can be learned from approaches which successfully meet the duties within equality law.

By investigating the impact of institutional approaches on both disabled students and staff in 21 institutions, the research has established what appears to be working well, where there might still be gaps in provision and how approaches can be further developed to fill these gaps.

The report sets out clear recommendations for action to be taken at all levels.

Meeting the Equality Act: learning from disability equality schemes in HE in England

Include and inspire

Sport and fitness services in higher education

Participation in higher education has changed and increased over time, creating more diverse student and staff populations. This is also the case in communities local to institutions.

Different people have different needs and requirements. Sports services that are aware of these differences and are inclusive and accessible to all staff, students and local community members will maximise participation and inspire people to get involved in sport and exercise.

This guide for HEI sports service managers and students’ unions explores participants’ diversity, the benefits of providing an inclusive service and how to take a strategic approach.

The guide has been awarded the Inspire Mark by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games in recognition of its contribution to supporting the Olympic legacy.

Include and inspire

Gay is the word

Film on the inappropriate use of the word ‘gay’

Members of Liverpool University’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans network have collaborated with students to produce an original short film on the inappropriate use of the word ‘gay’.

Produced by staff and students in their free time, the film makes the point that the derisive use of the word gay, however innocently done, does harm.

Network Chair, Lee Cooper said ‘The use of the word gay as a synonym for all things undesirable is often seen as harmless banter instead of the offensive insult that it really represents. I am very proud of what we have achieved in making this film and I hope it might make people think about what the word gay actually means.’

The film is available on YouTube: Gay is the word


Planning for the Scottish specific duties

5 December 2011, Glasgow Caledonian University – HEI workshop

6 December 2011, Edinburgh Napier University – College workshop

16 December 2011, University of the Highlands and Islands, Inverness – College workshop

We will be running workshops for colleges and HEIs in Scotland looking at the requirements of the proposed duties and planning to meet the key changes and challenges, with a central focus on developing equality outcomes.

HEI workshop: Contact Freya Douglas, Scottish Engagement Officer

College workshops: Contact Fatima Choudhury, Engagement Officer (FE)

Eliminating the needle from the haystack:

Meeting the new equality specific duties

23 January 2012, London

Organised by the Higher Education Equal Opportunities Network (HEEON), this event is aimed at helping delegates to find their way through the ’haystack’ of data, find where the data ‘needle’ is pointing and use this in setting equality objectives.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • David Ruebain, Equality Challenge Unit
  • Professor Danny Dorling, University of Sheffield
  • Tony O’Shea-Poon, Open University
  • Ruth Fairclough and Dr Christine Nightingale, DeMontfort University

HEEON events

Inclusive learning in further and higher education:

Innovations in research, practice and learner engagement

16 February 2012, Milton Keynes

Organised by the Learning and Skills Improvement Agency, the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education and the Open University, the conference recognises how far we have come in the past 15 years, and focuses on the innovations and opportunities that will lead to further mainstreaming of inclusive learning.

Workshops and presentations at the conference will focus on three themes: Learners’ Voices, Curriculum, Teaching and Quality, and Policy, Strategy and Research.

It will include examples of innovative research and practice focussing on various aspects of the future of inclusive learning.

The conference will be of interest to individuals and organisations across the full spectrum of adult learning: higher education, further education, workplace learning and community-based learning.

To learn more or to reserve a place, visit the conference website:

Inclusive learning in further and higher education

Equalitylink will return in January.

Wishing you all happy holidays!

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.


ECU Press Office

Anna Roberts Allison
Communications Manager

Telephone: 020 7438 1018

Out of Office enquiries

For urgent media enquiries outside of ECU office hours
Mobile: 07810 556 724