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Home Article Equality in higher education: latest reports highlight gender inequality and importance of Disabled Students’ Allowance

Equality in higher education: latest reports highlight gender inequality and importance of Disabled Students’ Allowance

Published: 06/11/2015

Two statistics reports published today provide a full breakdown of the background of staff and students in the UK.

The report, published annually by Equality Challenge Unit, provides a full analysis of information on students and staff during the 2013/14 academic year and provides data on age, disability, ethnicity and gender, as well as the interplay between these identities.

For the second year running, the report has also returned data regarding religious belief, sexual preference and gender identity, although this is still limited due to relatively few institutions actively collecting such data.

Download the reports

David Ruebain, ECU’s Chief Executive said:

This year’s data provides institutions with key benchmarking data plus broader significant food for thought in how they continue to tackle inequality.

It’s clear that gender issues are still prevalent, and the continuing underrepresentation of women in certain subjects gives cause for concern.  The recent expansion of our Athena SWAN charter, which now tackles gender inequality in all academic disciplines, will support institutions in addressing these issues.

We are also continuing to see a significant lack of BME staff in senior positions, and ECU understands how this is a critical issue for many institutions. Our new Race Equality Charter, which piloted earlier this year and which is due to launch in 2016, will play an important part in highlighting how institutions can ensure that a diverse workforce is represented at all levels.

It’s also impossible not to notice the sharp decline in students above the age of 26, which has fallen by just under 11% since 2003/4. This is significant, and the sector will want to consider and endeavour to address any drivers that are contributing to this decline.

It is encouraging to see that this year, more data has been collected on sexuality, gender identity and religious belief. However, the quantity of data collected is still very low and does not allow us to paint an accurate picture of the representation of people with these identities in institutions. Over the course of the next year, ECU will be running quarterly data briefings for institutions, one of which will focus on encouraging data collection of this kind.

Key findings in the report


The new reports highlight that there are still large areas of disparity within gender including:

  • The underrepresentation of women in certain subjects, particular in Engineering and Technology (16.1%) and Computer Science (17.1%)
  • In the staff report, the statistics show that 77.6% of professors are men.
  • The staff report also shows that a lower proportion of female academic staff are on contracts which include both teaching and research, compared to their male counterparts (43% v. 53.2%)
  • 5% of male staff are on senior contracts, three times the proportion of female staff.
  • Only 20% of heads of institutions are women.


The new statistics reports provide strong evidence that the Disabled Students’ Allowance is vital to student attainment, and underlines the challenge for institutions in supporting disabled students, in light of the changes to the DSA.

  • A higher proportion of disabled students in receipt of the DSA received a first/2:1 than those who did not receive DSA (69.6% v. 68.1%)
  • There has also been an increase in DSA take-up (from 38.4% to 39.7%)
  • The staff report found that a higher proportion of non-disabled academic staff were in the highest salary range of over £50,000 than disabled academic staff (28.4% compared with 23.7%; a difference of 4.7 percentage points).
  • The staff report also found that 54.9% of UK disabled leavers were no longer in employment. In comparison, 39.5% of UK non-disabled leavers were no longer in employment. This is a difference of 15.4 percentage points.


The reports continue to show disparity within ethnicity, especially within the context of BME staff in senior positions and underrepresentation within certain subsects. 

  • Relatively high proportions of UK academic staff working in chemical engineering (19.4%), clinical dentistry (18.6%) and electrical, electronic and computer engineering (16.3%) were BME. In contrast, only 1.8% of UK academic staff working in archaeology, 3.0% in earth, marine and environmental sciences and 3.4% in agriculture, forestry and food science were BME.
  • Among non-UK academic staff, 9.4% of white staff were professors compared with 4.3% of BME staff. The proportion of non-UK BME academics who were professors has increased by 0.5 percentage points since 2012/13, when it stood at 3.8%.
  • The proportions of UK staff who were BME was markedly below average in senior contract levels above professorial level (5A). For instance, among UK staff 3.4% of deputy/pro vice-chancellors (2A), and only 2.1% of chief operating officers/registrars/ university secretaries (2B)
  • London had markedly a higher median ethnicity pay gap than England as a whole (a median average of 13.7 percentage points and a mean average of 14.1 percentage points compared to England as a whole which has a median pay gap of 3.0 percentage points and a mean average pay gap of 4.0 percentage points).
  • The student report, shows proportion of research postgraduates who were black (3.5%) was nearly half that of first degree undergraduates (6.4%).


  • Academic senior managers had a considerably older age profile than other academic staff, with 70.0% aged 51 and over compared with 30.6% of other academic staff.
  • Overall, leaving rates were highest among academic staff aged 30 and under (32.4%), followed by staff aged 31–40 (19.1%) and 61 and over (19.0%).
  • The age profiles of academic staff varied greatly within SET subjects. For example, 27.6% of academic staff in chemistry were aged 30 and under, compared with 3.5% in nursing.
  • The student report shows that the number of students aged 26 and above continues to decline, and now stands at just 29.5% compared to 40.5% in 2003/4.