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Advancing equality and diversity in universities and colleges

Home Event Innovation, change, impact: Scotland conference, 25 April 2018

Innovation, change, impact: Scotland conference, 25 April 2018

Colleges and HEIs in Scotland have been working towards mainstreaming and embedding equality for some time, as it is a requirement of the specific duties regulations in Scotland.

This conference aims to provide a showcase for this work and an opportunity for collaboration and sharing of experience covering:

  • Innovative approaches and radical ideas to progressing equality and diversity activity
  • Identifying and measuring effective change
  • Developing creative approaches to identifying and evaluating impact 

Date: 25 April 2018

Time: 9.15am – 6pm

Registration opens: 9.15am

Venue: Hilton Glasgow Grosvenor, 1-9 Grosvenor Terrace, Glasgow, G12 0TA



  • Shirley-Anne Somerville, MSP, Scottish Government
  • Michael Cross, Interim Director for Access, Skills, and Outcome Agreements, Scottish Funding Council
  • Professor Nigel Seaton, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Abertay University
  • Alan Sherry, Principal, Glasgow Kelvin College


Delegates will have a choice of 12 workshops, spread across three workshop sessions. Full details can be found underneath the booking form.

Panel session: Gender equality as a launchpad for equality for all?

Will progress towards gender equality in further and higher education achieve a trickle down affect towards equality for all protected characteristics, or do we need another approach? What is the most effective way of developing an intersectional approach to equality and diversity in colleges and higher education institutions? Is the focus on gender the gateway to wider equality, or does it reinforce a hierarchy of oppression hindering much-needed work in other areas?

  • Ashlee Christopherson, Researcher, ECU (Chair)
  • Talat Yaqoob, Director, Equate Scotland
  • Peter Hopkins, Professor of Social Geography and Research Director for Geography, Newcastle University
  • Karen Boyle, Professor of Feminist Media Studies and Programme Director for the MLitt/MSc in Applied Gender Studies, University of Strathclyde

Drinks reception

Meet and greet with Alison Johns, Chief Executive, Advance HE.

If you have any questions about our 2018 conference, contact Stephanie Millar, Senior Policy Adviser at ECU.

Sponsorship Opportunities

Innovation, change, impact: Scotland conference, 25 April 2018




Workshop session 1 (10.45am - 11.45am) >

A: Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People: What young people say about their experiences, and how to create LGBT-inclusive spaces

LGBT Youth Scotland has over 25 years of experience working directly with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people ages 13-25. We support LGBT young people to engage with decision-makers and where this is not possible, we use their words and experiences to inform the engagement, to drive improvement. For the past 10 years, we have undertaken research with LGBT young people to explore their experiences of education, safety community and identity.

Though supporting LGBT young people LGBT Youth has worked with services to undertake improvement, support good practice, and create organisational change. The LGBT Charter programme, the main tool through which it delivers this capacity building, has successfully supported public, private, and voluntary services through this journey since 2006.

Drawing upon the most recent Life in Scotland for LGBT Young People report, this workshop will support participants to:

  • Hear recent research on experiences and needs of LGBT young people ages 13-25.
  • Reflect on current practices within services and identify areas for improvement.
  • Discuss and explore good practice.
  • Identify next steps for LGBT inclusion within their roles and organisations.

B: This Ayrshire Girl Can: Developing a rounded College approach to gender equality

Ayrshire College is widely recognised for its innovative work in promoting the increased participation of women and girls in traditionally male-dominated subjects and careers. Much of this work has fallen under the banner of the award winning ‘This Ayrshire Girl Can’ campaign and led the College to, amongst other things, establish a mentoring network called ‘Ayrshire Connects’ for female students studying STEM and Construction subjects. At the same time, the College embraces its wider commitment to gender equality particularly insight of gender-based violence and transgender identities. This means the College continues to develop an intersectional approach to gender equality. We are keen to share some aspects of this approach and in particular explore with others the College’s current journey in relation to gender-based violence. That journey so far has included, for example, partnership working with Medics Against Violence, Scotland Against Stalking and local Violence Against Women partnerships. Now the College seeks to progress with its own Equally Safe Plan. For us then, any Ayrshire girl can be whatever she chooses personally and professionally with the right support and enablement. And that is a commitment the College wants to get right. Radical commitment? No. Innovative, creative approach? Yes.

C: Athena Swan and the Technician Commitment: Driving change for professional services through collaborative working

The Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool, a GOLD Athena Swan departmental award holder, are working in partnership with the Science Council to champion the Technician Commitment across the sector. This workshop will explore how these two initiatives are mechanisms for driving change to ensure visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability for technicians working at the University of Liverpool and beyond. With the relatively recent adoption of professional services under the AS Charter and the establishment of the Technician Commitment, the workshop will:

  • Identify the key equality challenges facing the technical workforce, particularly around recruitment and career progression to allow for root cause analysis
  • Facilitate discussion to identify possible interventions at both a local and national level
  • Highlight how lessons learnt through Athena Swan can be applied to the Technician Commitment
  • Promote the advantages of partnership working and how bigger issues could more effectively be tackled together
  • Showcase how the initiatives applied for technical teams can be applied to other professional services

To provide context for the workshop the Institute of Integrative Biology from the University of Liverpool will discuss some of the initiatives they are developing for technical and other professional services colleagues.

D: Staff equality in colleges in Scotland: How can we build on recent research?

Dr Kevin Guyan, Researcher, Equality Challenge Unit, @kevin_guyan

In 2017, Equality Challenge Unit conducted a major study of staff perceptions and experiences of equality in colleges in Scotland. Research involved an online survey, with over 2000 respondents (almost 20% of total college staff), and six focus groups that explored themes including culture, leadership and management, recruitment, disclosure of equality data and career development.

The study revealed a mixed picture of staff equality. While the majority of respondents expressed the view that the sector was committed to equality and diversity, respondents also identified challenges related to bullying or harassment, the promotions process and the disclosure of equality data.

This session will present key findings from ECU’s research followed by an interactive session that examines equality challenges identified by the study. Using the report’s recommendations as a starting point for discussion, this session will provide participants with space to share their engagement with equality work in the college sector and discuss how to build upon research to advance a diverse and inclusive workforce.

This workshop will:

  • Share key findings from ECU’s report Equality in colleges in Scotland: results from the 2017 staff survey and focus groups.
  • Provide an insight into the unique barriers experienced by college staff.
  • Engage participants with an evidence-base that can advance staff equality in the college sector.
  • Increase awareness of equality and diversity initiatives taking place at colleges in Scotland.
Workshop session 2 (14:30pm - 15.30pm) >

A: PlayFair Steps for Equality Action in University IT

The PlayFair Steps Initiative at the University of Edinburgh is focused on a large group of staff who work within the University’s central Information Technology (IT) and Library departments, collectively known as the Information Services Group (ISG), to recognise that people’s identities and social positions at work – particularly in the technology industry – are shaped by multiple and interconnected factors. We have developed a range of creative activities exploring how a person’s age, disability status, race and ethnicity, gender, gender identity, religion or belief, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, and parent status contribute towards their specific experiences in and perspectives of our workplace. Using the local expertise of our academic colleagues and students as partners, we seek to move beyond anecdote and create a more inclusive workplace with support from senior management for both top-down and bottom-up change. ISG is the largest support group at the University with over 600 employees. The organisational studies literature has long included intersectionality in its discussions of diversity and academic leadership development. Less is understood, however, in practice for support teams in the University setting. Through this initiative we explore how gender connects to various other experiences and characteristics to exacerbate ‘imposter syndrome’ and stifle feelings of inclusiveness in our workplace and create barriers to leadership.

This session will showcase the work we have done in four areas: Myth-busting; Staff Engagement for Measuring Impact; Visibility and Accountability; Data Driven Decision Making and Reporting.

B: TransEDU: Developing policy and provision for trans students and staff in FE & HE

This interactive workshop will introduce delegates to the main considerations when developing policy and provision for trans and gender diverse applicants, students and staff in FE and HE institutions. Drawn from the TransEdu Scotland research undertaken at the University of Strathclyde, we will use the evidence-based recommendations as a springboard to explore what we as practitioners can do to further trans equality and inclusion in our institutions. Particular focus will be given to policy development, identifying gaps, and improving existing provision.

Who is this workshop for? This session is ideal for practitioners who intend to develop a trans policy or review an existing policy, including Human Resources, Student Services and other Professional Services staff who are involved in any aspects of provision development and delivery for students and staff. This session may also be of interest to researchers and academics specialising in equality and diversity strategic imperatives in further and higher education.

Learning outcomes: Through presentations, multimedia resources, group work and reflective exercises, delegates will develop an increased understanding of the experiences of, and barriers faced by, trans and gender diverse people in FE and HE. Delegates will also gain practical insight into the main considerations when developing and implementing policy for trans students and staff.

C: Equality, Diversity & Inclusion (ED&I) Through Evidence and Engagement

Graeme Brewster, Equality Diversity & Inclusion Manager, and Lynn Pilkington, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Officer, at City of Glasgow College (COGC) will provide an overview of how COGC has responded to the following questions:

  1. Why is evidence and engagement important to ED&I?
  2. How is evidence collected and engagement facilitated for our staff?
  3. How is evidence collected and engagement facilitated for our students (service users)?
  4. How is evidence and engagement used to demonstrate improved experiences for staff and students?

Following a presentation, participants will be encouraged to discuss, reflect upon and share their experience of how Colleges and Universities have responded to these questions.

D: An institutional approach to embedding race equality in the curriculum

Abertay University is currently the only Scottish holder of the Race Equality Charter Mark and one of the strengths of the resubmission for this award was the Teaching and Learning section where the work on embedding race equality in the curriculum was commended. This workshop will explore the work that the university undertook as part of a Higher Education Academy Strategic Enhancement Project and will invite participants to consider how they would approach embedding equality and diversity in their own institutions' curricula.

Workshop session 3 (15.50pm - 16.50pm) >

A: Papers session

Transgender experiences of the spaces of higher education

Notwithstanding an improving legal frame and changing social attitudes, there remains a dearth of research that focuses on the challenges faced by transgender people in educational environments. This paper shares some initial findings of a study that aims to understand how social and spatial relations are constructed, contested and (re)imagined by transgender students and staff including those who identify as gender non-conforming or non-binary. We highlight diversity in transgender experiences whilst also underlining a number of cross-cutting themes: including misrecognition, micro-aggressions, poor representation and little knowledge about appropriate language. Whilst the campus is generally understood as being more ‘accepting’ than the wider city, we describe how intersectionality is critical to collective responses geared towards improving the conditions for transgender students and staff.

Professional Education in Career Guidance and Development: placing equality and diversity activity at the forefront of curriculum design and programme delivery

Career Guidance and Development (CGD) is an established, if small, academic discipline. Aspects of equality, diversity and inclusive practice are often overlooked in critiques of career decision-making theory. The proactivity and visible dedication to progressing equality and diversity in training and practice in the CGD sector is the responsibility of its academics, offering contemporary evidence for advocacy of a discipline that continuously offers innovative and at times radical approaches to progressing equality and diversity.

In taking over the long-standing MSc Career Guidance and Development programme at UWS in January 2017, the authors brought broad expertise from HE research and teaching and in equality and diversity policy development and practice. They aimed to “make the medium the message” by taking a career development approach to all activity, transforming the programme in just 12 months. The authors will discuss how they enacted their intention, profiling equality and diversity practice, leading in to the presentation of how they will be showcasing their best practice approach in the forthcoming Embedding Equality and Diversity in the Curriculum Practice Guide, commissioned by the Higher Education Academy.

Embedding equality of access, participation and success in Irish Higher Education

This paper describes a practice-based research project to mainstream and embed equality of access. It charts how a research-intensive Irish University is using an institution-wide approach to systematically embed the principle of equity of access and thus move access from the institution’s margins to a mainstream concern.

This presentation grounds this initiative in national policy, and relevant academic literature, and outlines the iterative implementation process. Three phases are explored: Phase 1 addressed underpinning strategy and structures needed to build a sustainable foundation, while Phase 2 harnessed the commitment and enthusiasm of University staff, and the current Phase, builds on these developments by focusing on the creation of ‘ripple effect’ to extend mainstreaming and inclusive practice throughout the campus. This paper describes the series of interventions, approaches and resource development, applied across key institutional dimensions. The leavers used to effect individual and institutional transformation are outlined. The lessons learnt thus far are drawn. We will also look at the role of data and impact measurement in this initiative which includes both quantitative and qualitative measures.

B: Mentally Healthy College Community Project

The session is designed to highlight the unique partnership development that is taking place between Glasgow Clyde College and SAMH to deliver a 2 year project which will create a mentally healthy, open and vibrant college community.  It is the first project of its kind to focus upon increasing staff capacity.  Research has shown that students are more likely than other groups to experience mental health problems and that serious mental health problems amongst students are increasing.  In order to ensure that the College can best educate and support our students we think it is vital that we create a culture in which students can be supported in identifying their concerns and appropriately supported by the College and external agencies.

Staff and student welfare is of the utmost importance to Glasgow Clyde College and by adopting a holistic approach to mental health will ensure that our staff have the skills to support students and an awareness of how best to look after their own mental health.

C: Regional Collaboration for Gender Parity Initiatives

In this session, we will look at Robert Gordon University’s approach to tackling gender imbalance with regional partners in North East Scotland. We will discuss best practices and lessons learned around undertaking cross-institutional projects and use our recent collaboration with the GENES (Gender Equality North East Scotland) collective to illustrate our experiences and inspire idea sharing amongst attendees. Specifically, we will look at the #NaeGenderLimits project and how this regional effort was funded, promoted and staffed. Participants should come ready to engage and are encouraged to bring materials to share with the group from their own regional efforts. By the end of the session, participants should have gained insight into the benefits of regional collaboration, methods to engage partner organisations and ways in which to increase the visibility, reach and success of their initiatives.

D: "All faiths and none": supporting inclusion of religion or belief across your institution

Is it time to change your approach to the protected characteristic of ‘religion or belief’?

Some institutions lack a clear strategy or oversight of religion or belief as an equality characteristic. How do you ensure discourses aren’t focussed only on issues such as Prevent, free speech, or competition with other protected groups? How do you better understand the boundaries of Chaplaincy and EDI services? How can you strengthen work on race equality by considering the intersection of religion?

Informed by ECU’s new guidance, existing research, and conversations with a variety of student groups, ECU will lead delegates through a series of exercises to think about the impact of a religious identity in the learning environment, and how the institution can approach these sensitively.

Delegates will leave the session:

  • Informed about the top areas of concern around accessibility and inclusivity for the protected characteristic of ‘religion or belief’ with an overview from our recent guidance.
  • Confident to start holding more conversations about religion or belief in EDI work.
  • Empowered to start reviewing and improving their own inclusive approaches.

This session will be particularly valuable to those who are aiming to refresh their policies or activities around religion or belief, or who would like to build confidence discussing these themes in a professional context and supportive environment.