Equalitylink May 2012
ECU's monthly round-up of equality and diversity news, resources and our work with the sector
Welcome May 2012
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, and in further education in Scotland. Equalitylink is a monthly round-up of equality and diversity news, resources and ECU’s work with the sector.
HE sector focuses on priority equality challenges
ECU survey findings
ECU’s first annual survey has found that the higher education sector is committed to tackling systemic equality issues despite the challenges of a changing funding regime.
At a time when some higher education institutions (HEIs) are facing challenges including reduction in staff capacity and resources, universities are prioritising action on improving black and minority ethnic (BME) and female representation in senior roles, supporting BME students to reduce the attainment gap, and meeting the Equality Act 2010, among other work.
These findings were published as part of ECU's annual review of the work undertaken during 2011. This was the first annual survey to measure ECU's impact on equality in the HE sector across the UK. It was completed by around 200 people including heads of institutions, equality and diversity practitioners and heads of human resources.
A summary of the survey results is available online:
Mature students may be hit by funding changes
Report warns against focusing on younger students
Mature students make up almost a third of the UK’s undergraduate population. University think-tank million+ and the National Union of Students have published a report into experiences of mature students including the challenges they face, how their lives and careers are transformed by undertaking education and the potential effect of HE policy.
The report calls on policymakers, universities, colleges and students’ union officers to work together to improve opportunities for mature students, but the authors also say that government ministers should reconsider funding policies if the significant fall in applications from mature students in England for degree courses in 2012/13 continues.
Tackling forced marriage and violence against women
Comprehensive institutional responses needed
A new report following a pilot study into university responses to forced marriage and violence against women in the UK has called for further education colleges and HEIs to address the specific needs of victims and survivors through specialised training for frontline support staff and more systematic referral practices to specialist services in the community.
Carried out by the Centre for Family Law and Practice at London Metropolitan University, the study found that violence against women and forced marriage are problems within post-secondary education and that they affect some students disproportionally. The authors highlight that generic student support services may not meet the specific needs of students facing these issues, and therefore may not fully meet public sector equality provisions.
The research found that the level of support given to students facing forced marriage or violence depends on the ‘expertise, determination, and commitment of individual frontline staff’. The report calls for systematic institutional policies and procedures addressing forced marriage and violence against women to be put in place.
1 in 5 black students face race hate
NUS report finds high levels of hate crime
An NUS survey on hate crime has found that 18% of the black, Asian, African, Caribbean and Arab heritage students who responded had been the victims of at least one racial hate incident during their studies.
42% of reported incidents took place in and around educational institutions. More than half (54%) of the victims of race hate incidents surveyed had considered leaving their courses as a result. NUS is calling on HEIs to acknowledge that the problem exists on campus.
Red Tape Challenge
Home Office announces consultations
The Home Office has announced the outcome of the Equalities Red Tape Challenge and also the government response to the consultation on reform of the Equality and Human Rights Commission:
The government has published consultation documents on the removal of the following provisions:
- employer liability for the harassment of an employee by a third party eg a customer
- the power of tribunals to make wider recommendations in a successful discrimination case
- the statutory mechanism by which individuals can obtain information where they think an employer or service provider has acted unlawfully towards them
The government will also:
- proceed with the repeal of the socio-economic duty
- delay commencement of dual discrimination provisions
- delay commencement of reasonable adjustments to common parts provisions
Public sector equality duty
The government committed last year to assess the effectiveness of the specific duties of the public sector equality duty (PSED).
It has decided to bring forward that review and extend it to include both the general and specific duties, in order to establish whether the PSED is operating as intended.
Equality and Human Rights Commission
The Home Office also announced reforms to the EHRC in order to ‘clarify the Commission’s remit, focussing it on those areas where it can add value because of its unique role and functions, and improve its financial and operational performance.’
Welsh government sets equality objectives
The Welsh Government has published its equality objectives as part of a wider strategic equality plan. The plan was created following a programme of public engagement and consideration of evidence and data to identify the most pressing barriers to equality.
An action plan gives details of how the government will be working with public sector bodies to meet these objectives, including the higher education sector.
Women in STEM in Scotland
Royal Society of Edinburgh strategy to halt loss of talent
The Royal Society of Edinburgh have published a strategy to cope with what they describe as ‘the debilitating loss of talent represented by the high attrition rate of highly-trained women’ from science, technology, engineering and mathematics sectors.
The society’s recommendations include all universities and research institutes obtaining the minimum standard of an Athena SWAN Silver award (or equivalent); that funding bodies should link funding for universities and research criteria to gender equality; and that the Scottish government should support these expectations.
Reviewing the impact of our work
Annual Review of 2011
Full and meaningful engagement with equality considerations is key if higher education institutions want to offer all students the chance to succeed, attract the best staff and offer them progression without barriers, and add value to their reputation.
More than just a look at the impact of the first year of our strategic plan on equality and diversity in the sector, we wanted our 2011 review to articulate why equality and diversity are at the core of providing first-class higher education.
Thank you to everyone who took the time to complete our first ever annual sector survey at the end of last year. We have published a summary of the results alongside our Annual Review.
The survey found that 87.2% of respondents rated the quality of ECU's support for the sector and expert resources as good or excellent. 76.3% of equality and diversity practitioners were frequent users of our services and resources. Two in three (66.7%) heads of HR agreed or strongly agreed that our work helped them to support line managers and staff, while 67.5% of respondents said that ECU's work had led to their institution undertaking specific equality and diversity activities.
We are of course delighted by this response to our work, but we are not complacent. Following your valuable feedback, we will continue to ensure that we support all institutions in advancing the agenda, whatever their perspective and circumstances or the challenges they face.
Advancing race equality in HE
Tackling racial inequalities
Racial inequalities within the higher education sector have been well documented and pose a challenge for all higher education institutions.
ECU is holding an event for senior managers and interested practitioners to take stock of what we know, and more importantly how we can tackle the issues that exist together to create a more inclusive and diverse sector.
The event is now fully booked, but you can follow it on Twitter using the hashtag #raceinHE
Governance and management programme extended
In 2011 ECU provided a programme of support for four Scottish HEIs as they developed work to mainstream equality into existing processes and practices in their staff development, student services, or governance and management structures.
One of the key successes of this programme was working closely with governors and senior managers to help institutions realise the ambitions of their equality strategy by utilising existing processes.
Building on that success, we are extending this aspect of the programme to more Scottish HEIs:
- Heriot-Watt University
- Robert Gordon University
- Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
- Scottish Agricultural College
- University of Aberdeen
- University of Edinburgh
Athena SWAN awards
First silver university and first medical school awards
On 3 May 2012, the University of Birmingham hosted the Athena SWAN awards ceremony for the November 2011 round of awards. The event was very well attended, and included speeches from Professor David Eastwood, the vice-chancellor of the University of Birmingham, Professor Dame Julia Higgins, Athena SWAN patron, and David Ruebain, chief executive of ECU.
29 awards were presented at the event, including the first silver university award for Queen’s University Belfast, and the first award for a medical school, as Warwick Medical School obtained a bronze department award.
Gaps in HEI data
Figures from 2010/11 show that atypical staff comprise 32.5% of the higher education workforce, and 34% of support staff. However, very little is known about their employment.
Feedback from HEIs suggests that collecting data on non-academic atypical staff is onerous and difficult, and consequently the data returned to HESA is less complete than for other staff groups.
In addition to HEIs' legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 (which covers all staff employed by the institution including atypical staff), data on atypical support staff can help institutions gain an overall picture of the make-up of their whole workforce, allowing wider trends to be observed and monitored. As some atypical support staff tend to be clustered in certain roles, there is a danger that institutions are missing data on whole sections of their workforce.
In light of this, ECU is currently undertaking a project looking at effective methods for collecting data on atypical support staff:
Supporting colleges in Scotland
College Liaison Group
ECU’s College Liaison Group is an opportunity to inform ECU’s work with the sector and to discuss existing activity. The next meeting is being held on 31 May 2012 at Scotland’s Colleges in Sterling.
If you would like to attend, please email Fatima Choudhury, ECU engagement officer (FE).
Events to support equality in Scottish colleges
ECU will be holding a workshop on planning equality outcomes to assist colleges in planning for the specific duties, expected to be confirmed by EHRC on 27 May. The session is being held on 31 May 2012, from 10am–12.30pm at Scotland’s Colleges. If you would like to attend this session, please contact Fatima Choudhury with any dietary, communications or access requirements.
We are also running a Train the Trainer event on Tuesday 12 June at Forth Valley College. The session will explore prejudice, stereotyping and bias and the multiple barriers to access while exploring ways of effecting change. It will be challenging for participants, exploring activities and approaches that eliminate discrimination, advance equality and foster good relations and help position equality and diversity as a core business function.
This session will be supported by Tony Stevenson, an experienced equality practitioner who has worked with a wide range of public and voluntary sector organisations to meet the requirements of equality and human rights law.
Join ECU’s Board
Opportunity for equality and diversity practitioner
We have an exciting opportunity for someone currently working in the field of equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education to join our Board of Directors.
We are seeking to appoint an additional Board member to succeed Dr Felicity Cooke, independent equality practitioner and former Head of Equality at Oxford University. Dr Cooke will be retiring from the Board in July 2012 at the conclusion of her second three-year term of office.
We welcome applications from anyone meeting the following criteria:
- committed to promoting the highest standards of practice regarding equality and diversity
- currently working in the field of equality and diversity for staff and students within a higher education environment
- fully up-to-date with all aspects of equality legislation and requirements for higher education
- track record of success in strategic positions in either the private or not-for-profit sectors in the UK and/or abroad
- understanding of effective corporate governance
Closing date: Wednesday 30 May 2012 at 12 noon
Help shape the network’s future role
The Higher Education Equal Opportunities Network (HEEON) is an independent network of equality and diversity practitioners in higher education. Active since 1992, the network is seen by many as the voice of the HE equality and diversity practitioner and provides services including conferences and the admin-EO JISCMail mailing list. ECU has worked closely with HEEON for many years.
In order to continue to reflect the voice of practitioners in the sector and the changed equality landscape, HEEON are reviewing their activities and operations.
You can help to shape the future of the network’s role by completing a short anonymous survey and giving your input on the services and support that you would value from the group.
Closing date: 31 May 2012
Women in the Welsh workforce
Research on changing roles for women
Chwarae Teg is an organisation that delivers career and development support for women in Wales as well championing women’s opportunities in education, entrepreneurship, work-life balance and flexible working among employers, influencing bodies and organisations, and policy makers.
The organisation is currently undertaking research into how women’s roles in the Welsh workforce have changed over the past two decades. The research will be used as evidence to support business strategy, government policy and to maximise the contribution of women to the Welsh economy.
Chwarae Teg has set up an internet forum to gather women’s views on issues relating to the workforce, and employment equality issues.
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.
Mentoring: progressing women’s careers in HE
Investigating the factors that make mentoring programmes for women successful
As part of a range of equality initiatives that shape institutional strategy, mentoring can help to address the gender imbalances that exist within the higher education sector. However, there is significant evidence that women, especially black and minority ethnic women, experience greater difficulty in finding a suitable mentoring partnership.
Based on case studies of five HEIs, this guidance focuses on key factors in developing and delivering successful mentoring initiatives for women in higher education. The guidance is also supported by a literature review.
REF and equality
Updated complex circumstances examples
ECU is working with the national REF team to provide materials and guidance on ensuring equality and diversity factors are taken into consideration in the REF2014.
We have recently updated the complex circumstances case studies examples. The description of circumstances section is now anonymous, reflecting the fact that data on complex circumstances received by the REF equality and diversity advisory panel will be anonymous.
Overlooked communities, overdue change
BME disabled people
Disability charity Scope has published a report presenting wide-ranging evidence about disabled people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. The report includes recommendations to improve BME disabled people’s access to services.
Equality and access agreements
Further guidance on OFFA website
The Office for Fair Access (OFFA) has published further information on equality and diversity in access agreements on their website.
Race to the top
The experiences of black students in HE
Think-tank The Bow Group have published the first in a series of reports looking at the experiences of particular groups from non-traditional backgrounds within HE and the challenges faced by that group in gaining employment.
The report focuses on the experiences of black students with African and Caribbean heritage.
Good practice in teaching race, faith and culture
The Institute of Education has recently published a guide to teaching race, faith and culture in higher education.
The book aims to identify and share good practice that tutors and lecturers have developed when engaging with black and minority ethnic students.
It addresses issues raised by the students and the tutors themselves, aiming to bring hidden issues that could be seen as having a racial origin out into the open to be dealt with fairly and professionally.
Disability FOCUS guide: employability
For staff supporting student employability
Produced by Action on Access, this guide will be of use to staff with responsibility for directly supporting student employability in post-16 education institutions, whether this is delivered through central services or academic departments.
The guide covers the remit of staff dealing with a range of associated employability issues including: organising placements, field trips and overseas study; delivering sandwich courses, foundation degrees and employability skills programmes; and co-ordinating work-based learning and volunteering opportunities.
Breakfast seminar: MSc Diversity management
30 May 2012, University of Bradford, or by webinar
Breakfast event and live webinar to find out more about the University of Bradford’s MSc diversity management programme as it launches a distance learning option.
The programme is designed for managers and practitioners responsible for managing equality and diversity issues in their organisations.
For further details and to book your place, contact Fahmida Ashraf on 01274 233653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cancelled: HEEON conference
13-14 June 2012
Please note that due to unforeseen circumstances the HEEON conference scheduled for 13-14 June has been cancelled.
There will be further communication from HEEON in due course.
Athena SWAN: medical schools workshop
14 June 2012, Warwick Medical School
The University of Warwick Medical School has become the first UK medical school to receive an Athena SWAN Bronze award for its school-wide work supporting the Charter for women in science.
Warwick is holding a workshop to share best practice on the Athena SWAN Charter as well as to discuss the challenges they faced in putting their application together.
For further details or to book your place, contact Caroline Peck, 024 7657 2899 by Friday 1 June 2012.
Touching hearts and minds: tackling disparities in student attainment
18 June 2012, Coventry University
This one day conference focuses on the findings of a joint study between the University of Wolverhampton and Coventry University exploring the gap between the attainment of black minority ethnic and white students across the two universities.
The future of education: new environments and new challenges for black and minority ethnic researchers and academics
29 June 2012, University of Birmingham
This conference, organised by the British Educational Research Association aims to provide a focussed opportunity to consider the contributions of BME researchers and academics to the development of knowledge related to race, ethnicity, education and society.
Delegates will also discuss the challenges for BME researchers within an age of austerity and shifting policy with respect to race, ethnicity and education.
Faith and sexuality – reconciling differences
11 September 2012, University of Salford
A conference exploring the issues between faith and sexual orientation in the higher education environment. This comes after a series of high profile cases which have demonstrated the need for coherent approaches to addressing coexistence between faith groups and members of the LGBT community, including those who are members of both.
Clare Pavitt, ECU senior policy adviser on sexual orientation and faith, will be facilitating a session on good relations on campus. It will explore issues including processes to manage external speakers and the display and distribution of literature on campus which may be offensive to LGBT students, or students with a religion or belief.
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.