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Home Article ECU to move to a subscription service

ECU to move to a subscription service

Published: 26/03/2015

Change to ECU funding from 1 January 2016

From 1 January 2016 higher education institutions in England will need to subscribe directly to ECU to continue to access our services, resources and advice, and to take part in our equality charters, including Athena Swan.

ECU currently receives a significant proportion of our core funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, to support English higher education institutions to advance equality and diversity and meet the requirements of equality legislation. Due to the changed funding regime in England, HEFCE will no longer be in a position to provide core funding to ECU.

Helping you meet your priorities in 2016

Equality and diversity is a high priority for universities: understanding the issues and taking action to advance equality and diversity improves the experience and outcomes of those working and learning in institutions and contributes towards a stronger, smarter world class sector.

Equality in higher education also continues to be a key driver for the government, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, HEFCE, research councils and other strategic agencies.

Staff remain universities most important asset. HEIs are prioritising action to address the continued underrepresentation of women and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds at senior levels, the representation and progression of people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, providing support for the best research staff regardless of background, addressing unconscious bias and developing effective leadership in equality.

Our change in funding offers us the opportunity to increase our work on student equality. This is particularly apt at a time when wholesale changes are being made to disabled students allowances and issues around community cohesion, religion and belief, and academic freedom abound. It will also allow us to more directly consider differential student attainment, ensuring students of all backgrounds are supported to reach their potential, and support you in your work set out in your Office for Fair Access agreements.

We have over 10 years of experience working with the higher education sector and understand the real challenges faced by your institution.

Our work will remain central to the overall mission of higher education in the UK, helping to unpick complex tensions around competing rights, enabling real cultural change and ensuring higher education is at the forefront of inclusion, fairness and opportunity.

Our priorities in 2016

The changes in funding mark a new approach for ECU, and we are committed to continuing to deliver a unique, evidence-based expert service for HEIs.

Our priority will be to ensure ECU continues to provide a strategic lead, assisting the sector as it improves equality and diversity across a range of issues to maximise staff potential. We will continue to provide high-quality and cost-effective support for those responsible for enhancing equality within your institution.

We know that institutions will need to allocate additional resources from their already tight budgets to meet ECU subscriptions, but we hope that in you doing so we can continue to build on our work supporting you over the last 10 years. Our focus will be on offering real value to the whole university and those that are responsible for delivering your equality strategies. Subscribing to ECU will enhance your institutional commitment to equality and diversity, allowing you to attract and retain better staff, better students and more research funding.

In April, we will be consulting with the sector about our subscriber offer and sharing our intended fee levels. We will be asking how ECU can deliver services that offer the best value for universities. Final subscription levels will be announced in July following our consultation on the subscriber offer. They will be graduated, and based on institutional income.

Timeline for changes

April – June 2015: We will be consulting widely with English HEIs and sector bodies on our subscription package

July 2015: Full subscription details will be announced

October 2015: Institutions will be invited to join ECU

1 January 2016: ECU resources, advice and guidance, including membership of ECU’s equality charters, will be available only to subscribers

What do the changes mean in the rest of the UK?

Scotland >

ECU’s work with Scottish HEIs and colleges is funded by the Scottish Funding Council. Our current funding agreement comes to an end in August 2015. ECU is currently negotiating a programme of work for academic years 2015-2018.

Further details will follow by the end of April. At this time we do not envisage that Scottish institutions will need to subscribe to us directly. However, you will have full access to ECU’s subscriber website portal from January 2016, providing an enhanced experience and more opportunities to engage.

A membership fee will continue to apply to be a member of ECU’s charter marks – Athena SWAN, and the race charter mark we will be launching next year.

Northern Ireland >

ECU’s work with universities in Northern Ireland is funded by the Department for Employment and Learning. Our current funding agreement comes to an end at the end of December 2015. We are currently exploring with the department what the arrangements will be beyond that period, however at this stage we are unable to confirm what the position will be.

If the funding arrangements remain in their current form, we do not envisage that institutions in Northern Ireland will need to subscribe to us directly and will have full access to ECU’s subscriber website portal from January 2016, providing an enhanced experience and more opportunities to engage.

A membership fee will continue to apply to be a member of ECU’s charter marks – Athena SWAN, and the race charter mark we will be launching next year.

If the funding position changes, ECU will be inviting institutions in Northern Ireland to subscribe directly to ECU in order to access our services, resources and advice, and to take part in our equality charters, including Athena Swan. We will therefore be inviting you to take part in a consultation on the support you need to meet your priorities during May and June 2015. This will allow us to enhance the valued service which we provide, as well as continue to meet the needs of the sector by developing specific new support for subscribers. Full subscription levels will be announced in July 2015.

Wales >

In Wales, ECU is funded through a sector-wide subscription established by Universities Wales and managed by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW). The current funding agreement to support Welsh HEIs expires at the end of July 2015.

We value our partnership with Universities Wales and HEFCW, and are grateful for the support of Welsh vice-chancellors in the current funding. We will be meeting to discuss future funding shortly. Our hope is that it will be possible to continue with the current model so that Welsh institutions have full access to ECU’s subscriber website portal from January 2016, providing an enhanced experience and more opportunities to engage.

A membership fee will continue to apply to be a member of ECU’s charter marks – Athena SWAN, and the race charter mark we will be launching next year.