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Diversifying Leadership programme launches Sponsor Toolkit

Published: 15/08/2017

ECU has co-authored a toolkit launched today by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

A senior leaders’ toolkit designed to help tackle the lack of black and minority ethnic (BME) leaders in UK higher education has been launched by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Developed in partnership with Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), as part of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education’s Diversifying Leadership programme, the Sponsor Toolkit is for use by senior leaders in higher education who are sponsoring participants.

Now in its sixth run, Diversifying Leadership offers targeted leadership development support to early career academics and professional services staff from BME backgrounds.

Sponsorship is a key feature of Diversifying Leadership, with sponsors and their protégés working closely together throughout the programme and after it has ended. The role of sponsor differs markedly from those of mentor, champion and similar: where mentors may counsel, coach and inspire, sponsors also actively use their position, power and influence to help advance their protégé’s career.

Tinu Cornish, the toolkit author and senior training and learning adviser at ECU, said:

“There can be great rewards in sponsoring prospective BME leaders but there are also particular challenges. BME participants, many of them women, face a complex range of race and gender related experiences on the road to improving their visibility or establishing their leadership potential: given that the majority of senior leaders are both white and male, the sponsor may not always have similar first-hand experiences.”

“Our aim is to ensure not only that sponsors have a better understanding of the specific issues but that they’re confident to carry out their role in championing their protégé.”

The Sponsor Toolkit consists of five modules, each offering web-based materials and interactive support used at key intervals during the programme so the sponsor and protégé can explore the issues raised in real time.

This includes an introduction that examines the role of the sponsor, a look at race issues and having a willingness to “talk about race”, before exploring leadership journeys, the complexities of bias in institutions and, finally, career planning.

Co-author of the Sponsor Toolkit and Diversifying Leadership programme leader, Jannett Morgan, said:

“Tackling the under-representation of BME leaders in UK higher education institutions is a key priority for the Leadership Foundation, and the Diversifying Leadership programme is an important element of that work. 2018 will see a number of new developments, not least the new Sponsor Toolkit to help not only prospective sponsors but programme applicants, who might use the Toolkit to help them select the right kind of sponsor.”

She added:

“Indeed, anyone involved in leadership development is warmly invited to access the resource, including mentors, line managers and others who play their own roles in leadership development and who may find the programme highly informative.”

The Sponsor Toolkit is available at and is funded by the four higher education councils of the UK and developed in partnership with the Equality Challenge Unit.

The next Diversifying Leadership programme will take place in London from February 2018. To find out more visit: