Recommended questions to ask about equality information.
Institutions are required to return data on staff and students to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in a specific format. However, you can tailor your questions and the response options to your context. For example, some of the categories HESA requires are broad, so splitting these may allow for a more in-depth analysis of the data. However, when expanding from HESA requirements, you should consider at the outset how the data can be aggregated or otherwise made able to be returned to HESA in the required form. One consideration is that meanings of questions and categories reflect the meanings in HESA requirements.
In recommending wording of and response options to the sector, ECU needs to balance its guidance with what is required by the Equality Act, and what institutions are required to collect and return to HESA, which for students is also related to what UCAS collects. Consideration also needs to be given to the ability to compare data with prior years, and with other data sources for benchmarking. With all of these considerations, we acknowledge that approaches to some questions and response options by some organisations in other sectors differ from ECU’s guidance.
ECU also provides recommendations for future changes to equality monitoring to HESA and to other relevant sector bodies, as good practice develops.
Equality monitoring is a complex and evolving area, so institutions are encouraged to review ECU guidance and their own monitoring questions and response options at regular intervals. There are also changes made to the HESA staff and student record data collections each year, which may have implications for equality data. The below updated recommended questions and response options reflect HESA’s requirements for the 2017/18 data collection.
There are other considerations for equality monitoring in the college sector, leading to slightly different recommended questions and response options. ECU will shortly be publishing a guide to equality monitoring for colleges in Scotland.
General notes on equality monitoring
Before asking equality monitoring questions, ECU recommends providing a statement explaining why the institution or college is doing so, and the benefits of equality monitoring, such as:
[Institution] aims to have an inclusive environment for all staff and students, by identifying and removing barriers in our practices. Completing this monitoring form will help us achieve this, and also help [institution] meet our obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
While it is voluntary to disclose this information, doing so will enable us to better understand the composition of our workforce/student body and examine our practices fully.
Your answers will be treated in the strictest confidence, and all data disclosed will comply with the Data Protection Act 1998. [Insert statement about institution’s confidentiality policy].
To find out more about the work [institution] is doing to meet the requirements of the Equality Act, please contact [name] or visit [website link]
When monitoring, ECU recommends listing equality areas and response options alphabetically.
It is important that staff and students have the option to participate in monitoring exercises without having to disclose, for example by giving the option ‘prefer not to say’.