Universities focus on priority equality challenges
ECU survey findings published
The higher education sector is committed to tackling systemic equality issues despite the challenges of a changing funding regime, according to the findings of a survey published today by Equality Challenge Unit, the higher education equality body.
At a time when some institutions 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 issues.
These findings were published as part of ECU's annual review of the work undertaken during 2011, the first year of the equality body's current strategic plan. This was the first annual survey to measure ECU's impact on equality in the higher education sector across the UK. It was completed by around 200 heads of institutions, equality and diversity practitioners and heads of human resources.
The survey also 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 ECU's 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.
David Ruebain, ECU Chief Executive said:
'The respondents to our survey were very clear - they know that there are challenges to overcome in institutions, and are determined to meet these head on in the coming year.
Recent research, including our own here at ECU, has highlighted the problems of underrepresentation of BME staff at senior levels, and how unconscious bias in recruitment is limiting the careers of BME staff in the sector. Many of the institutions responding to the survey clearly state that this is an area that they will be tackling as a priority.
We are delighted by the sector's response to our work, but we are not complacent. Following this 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.'
ECU is funded by the UK higher education funding bodies, and Universities UK and Guild HE.
Steve Egan, HEFCE Director and Deputy Chief Executive, said:
'It is vital that higher education is open and accessible to all, with the sector continuing to be committed to equality and diversity. ECU is doing an outstanding job supporting higher education as it leads the way in promoting equality.'
A summary of the survey results and ECU's Annual Review of 2011 are available online: