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Advancing equality and diversity in universities and colleges


Positive action

Initiatives to overcome the effects of historic discrimination.

Positive action refers to steps that HEIs and colleges can take to encourage people from different groups in order to overcome historic disadvantage, or low participation education, training and welfare.

The Equality Act 2010 harmonised positive action across the different protected characteristics. In Northern Ireland the positive or affirmative action provisions vary for different protected characteristics.

These voluntary positive action measures must aim to:

  • alleviate disadvantage experienced by people who share a protected characteristics; or
  • reduce underrepresentation in relation to particular activities; or
  • or  meet particular needs.

Such measures must be proportionate to achieving the aim. Examples of positive action measures might include:

  • the use of targeted advertising to encourage underrepresented groups to apply to work at the institution
  • taking steps to remove barriers in student outreach or admissions for groups of students underrepresented in particular subjects
  • providing alternative processes to meet different needs in accessing  services

If you would like guidance in understanding or designing positive action measures please feel free to contact the ECU policy team.

For further examples of our work encouraging positive action in widening participation, student recruitment and admissions please see our Attracting and Increasing Diversity projects.