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Equalitylink December 2015


Welcome December 2015

Equality Challenge Unit works to further and support equality and diversity for staff and students in higher education across all four nations of the UK, and in colleges in Scotland. Equalitylink is a monthly round-up of equality and diversity news, resources and ECU’s work with the sector.

Equality update

Call for outreach for young men

UCAS figures show differences in entry to HE

UCAS, the universities admissions body, reports that women are now 35% more likely to enter higher education than men, the largest difference recorded to date. For former free school meal pupils, and those living in poorer areas, women are over 50% more likely to enter than men.

Looking at the figures for the 2015 student intake, UCAS comments that ‘compared to the entry rates for women, a record 36,000 18-year-old men are “missing” from universities this year.’

Students from the least advantaged backgrounds in England were more likely to enter higher education than ever before and the least advantaged young people in England are now 65% more likely to go to university or college than they were in 2006.

Among young people from English state schools, the white ethnic group were the least likely to enter higher education in 2015 with an entry rate of 28%, compared to 41% for the Asian ethnic group, 37% for the black ethnic group, 32% for the mixed ethnic group and 58% for the Chinese ethnic group.

UCAS’ chief executive Mary Curnock Cook said: ‘Differences in access to higher education between rich and poor are at historic lows.

‘But with further increases in the gap between men and women entering higher education, we can now see clearly that concentrating outreach efforts on young men, particularly white men, would make a significant contribution to diminishing the rich-poor gap.’

Gary Loke, ECUs Head of Policy commented ‘The 2015 Higher Education Green paper similarly notes that “there are substantial gaps in progression of white males from disadvantaged backgrounds to higher education”.

‘ECU will be responding to the consultation, being mindful that this evidence needs to be considered in the round with compounded disadvantage.’

UCAS End of cycle report.

Tackling violence against women, harassment and hate crime in HE

First meeting of UUK taskforce

In September Jo Johnson MP, minister for universities and science, asked Universities UK to establish and lead a taskforce to address issues of harassment and violence at universities. Janet Beer, ECU Chair and vice-chancellor of Liverpool University, is a member of the taskforce.

ECU will be providing information and support to the work of the taskforce. If you have examples of good practice from your institution please contact Gemma Tracey, Senior Policy Adviser.

The first taskforce meeting took place on 17 November 2015 and a summary of the meeting and next steps are available online.

Taskforce to investigate violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students

David Ruebain appears in 2015 Disability Power list

ECU’s chief executive David Ruebain has been included in the Disability Power 100 list for the second year running.

Power 100 is a celebration of British diversity and the achievements of people with a disability or health impairment across many professions, including business, culture politics and sport.

Power list 2015

Trans learners in Scotland

Scottish Qualification Authority record changes

Scottish Qualifications Agency (SQA) has published web guidance for trans learners to ensure they can update their SQA learner record to correctly reflect their name and gender.

Updating personal information — guidance for transgender learners

SQA has also published guidance specifically for SQA centres, which will be useful for colleges and universities in Scotland.

Updating personal information for transgender learners — guidance for centres

Transnational gender equality scheme proposed

European project investigates using Athena SWAN as a framework

GENDER-NET, a project funded by the European Commission to address the common challenges still facing European research institutions in achieving gender equality, has recommended the development of a transnational awards scheme.

The recommendations follow research undertaken by the international GENDER-NET project partners (of which ECU is one) into eight gender equality award schemes across Europe, and Australia.

The Athena SWAN charter was found to be the only award scheme to be both effective at creating structural change for gender equality in research institutions and have methods and processes that allow for transferability to other countries.

[Note: this text was amended on 28 January 2016 to clarify the findings]

GENDER-NET analysis report: award schemes, gender equality and structural change


Heidi Plus

HESA launch new tool to improve data analysis

The Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) launched a new data analysis tool at the end of November, which promises to greatly improve equality data analysis.

Heidi Plus replaces the previous heidi system, which has been completely changed to offer greater functionality, quicker and more sophisticated analysis and visualisations. Heidi Plus will contain both the historic and future student and staff datasets.

HESA has announced dedicated Heidi Plus training for equality practitioners. See Events below for further details.

Heidi Plus launched

Equality and diversity in HE conference

Equality Challenge Unit and Universities UK held their first ever joint conference on equality earlier this month. The Rt Hon Maria Miller opened the conference. High on the agenda was violence against women, the importance of leadership and equality in a multinational setting.

Baroness Valerie Amos, the UK’s first black woman vice-chancellor spoke passionately about the need for the sector to do better at increasing the diversity of its leaders and senior staff.

You can catch up on the debate that took place at the conference on Twitter. Search #UUKED

Our work


Member area of ECU website launched

From 1 January 2016 ECU is changing to a subscription-based service for English HEIs. HEIs that have confirmed they will be subscribing to ECU will be able to access the member area of our website. You will need to follow the simple steps here to register and log in online.

Registering will allow you to have access to our publications, training resources, information and advice. You can also manage your contact details, and in the future will be able to book directly onto events.

All Scottish HEIs and colleges and Welsh HEIS will be able to register. In England and Northern Ireland only users in institutions that have subscribed to ECU will be able to register.

You can find out if your institution has subscribed here: Our subscribers

ECU Equality Charters

Race Equality Charter to launch in January

Following a successful trial, ECU’s Race Equality Charter will be officially launched on 20 January 2016. The launch will also celebrate the commitment and progress of all the trial participants, and eight bronze awards will be formally presented.

We will shortly be announcing details of our new REC patrons, and watch out for a series of blogs exploring the need for the charter, the benefits of taking part and helpful tips for putting together your self-assessment teams and action plans.

Race Equality Charter

Athena SWAN Charter in Ireland

This is the first year in which Irish institutions were invited to participate in the Athena SWAN Charter.

The University of Limerick, Department of life sciences and Department of mathematics and statistics both received bronze Athena SWAN awards in the September 2015 round.

They joined the recipients from the April awards round and a number of higher education institutions who have pledged to improve gender inequalities to celebrate their ongoing work for women in science, technology, maths and medicine (STEMM) at the inaugural Athena SWAN awards held in Dublin on 10 December 2015.

Successfil Irish universities celebrated

The submission deadline for the next cohort of Irish applicants is 30 April 2016 at 5pm.

Athena SWAN expansion to include AHSSBL subjects

The first Athena SWAN applications for arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law (AHSSBL) departments have been submitted in the latest awards round. Prior to May 2015, only science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine (STEMM) departments could apply.

Thirteen AHSSBL departments have submitted, with 12 STEMM departments also choosing to use the expanded and updated award framework.

Athena SWAN Charter

ECU’s Equality Charters

To keep up to date with all our work, follow us on Twitter @EqualityinHE

Get involved

Progressing staff equality in Scottish colleges

Be part of our advisory group for this ground-breaking project

ECU has begun work on a three year project to support the college sector in Scotland to advance staff equality. The first project of its kind for Scotland’s colleges, the Supporting workforce diversity: progressing staff equality project aims to establish a baseline of equality for college staff and support improvement for any challenges identified.

Across the sector there are disparities in staff equality data gathering and reporting mechanisms. Colleges have less information on staff equality issues and the impacts of these than they have for students. The project aims to fully explore barriers to staff equality and to subsequently produce guidance and resources to support improvement for any challenges identified.

We will be setting up an advisory group to provide support and advice to the project as well as acting as a critical friend. We’re looking for a regional spread of college representatives to take part. They will be joined by representatives from national stakeholder organisations, the College Liaison Group (CLG) and the HR Development Network (HRDN).

If you are interested in being an advisory group member contact Stephanie Millar for more information.

Progressing equality and diversity in Scottish FE and HE

Call for workshops

This conference, to be held in Scotland on 26 April 2016, will showcase innovative practice that is underway within the Scottish college and HEI sector, and elsewhere in the UK, to aid enhancement of approaches to governance of equality, staff equality and student equality.

We are looking for workshops from colleges and HEIs to share experience and innovation around the following themes:

  • Governance and leadership of equality
  • Student equality
  • Staff equality

The closing date for proposals is Thursday 15 January 2016.

Find more details on our website ECU’s 2016 Scotland conference: call for workshops

Communications officer vacancy

Look out for your chance to work for ECU in the new year

In early January we will be advertising for a communications officer to join our busy team. The role will include creating content, producing resources, developing social media communities and helping us ensure ECU helps practitioners to make a real impact for their staff and students.

If you know someone who might be interested in joining a committed equality organisation and has the skills to help ECU to further equality and diversity in higher education, please let them know to watch out for the vacancy going live in the first week of January.

ECU’s current vacancies

Follow our Twitter account for the latest job opportunities with ECU

Help plan ECU’s annual conference 2016

ECU are starting to plan our annual conference 2016 and are keen to involve institutions from the outset.

To volunteer as part of the working group and help make this conference our best yet, please email ECU’s Engagement Manager, Gemma Instrall.

Resources and support

Understanding unconscious bias

Half-day workshop for governing bodies from ECU and the Leadership Foundation

It’s well known that balanced and diverse senior management teams are a crucial component of successful higher education institutions, and governing bodies have a key role in the move towards diversity.

The Leadership Foundation and ECU are delighted to offer a new workshop designed to help governing bodies understand the barriers presented by unconscious bias – and how we can improve decision-making and make more diverse appointments through awareness of our biases. This academic year we are able to offer the workshop at a reduced cost thanks to financial support from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Designed and delivered by experienced and knowledgeable facilitators and using up-to-the-minute research on this fascinating subject, the workshop can be run by invitation for the governing body of your institution, or for representatives of the governing bodies of neighbouring institutions on a regional basis. Facilitators will include Clare Pavitt, Senior Policy Advisor at ECU and Rebecca Nestor, Leadership Foundation Senior Associate, both of whom have a wealth of experience in equality and diversity issues.

Governors taking part will learn about the role that unconscious bias plays in human decision-making, apply this knowledge to their own institution’s decision-making, especially on senior appointments and in the context of their institution’s own equality and diversity strategy. Participants will be assisted to create a realistic action plan for mitigating bias.

If you would like to learn more about the workshop or discuss how we can deliver a workshop for your governing body, please email Sweta Purohit Jina or call 020 3468 4823.

Unconscious bias explained

The Royal Society recently developed an interesting animated resource explaining unconscious bias and how it can slip into evaluations and selection.

Understanding unconscious bias

Managing good relations in colleges and higher education: training packs

New training materials to adapt for use in your institution

Colleges and higher education institutions have a legal duty to foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

These training resources are designed to help you to train colleagues to identify those issues that might cause tensions between different groups, to deal effectively with incidents that arise, and to create an environment where good relations thrive. While primarily designed for use with staff, these resources are also relevant to students and can be easily adapted for that purpose.

These materials have been developed to support and reflect the ECU guidance Promoting good relations on campus: a guide for higher and further education . They are designed for use by people responsible for equality and diversity training to adapt to your own institutional context.

For more details visit our website: Managing good relations training pack

Equality in HE: statistical reports 2015

ECU’s annual reports published

Using data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the report aims to focus attention on areas where the higher education sector needs to act to achieve an inclusive culture for all staff and students.

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

Equality in HE: statistical reports 2015

Supporting trans staff and customers

Government guidance published

Providing services for transgender customers: a guide has been produced in partnership with Gendered Intelligence, and sets out guidance and good practice examples.

Recruiting and retaining transgender staff: a guide for employers has been produced in partnership with Inclusive Employers and is designed to provide employers with practical advice, suggestions and ideas on the recruitment and retention of transgender employees and potential employees.


Share your events with us on Twitter, follow us @EqualityinHE

Race Equality Charter data workshop

22 January and 9 February 2016, University of Hertfordshire

Are you planning or considering applying for the Race Equality Charter? Are you concerned about the data requirements? Would you like to find out how other institutions have met these requirements?

One of the first Bronze Award holders, the University of Hertfordshire will be running two workshops for prospective REC applicants on the lessons learnt from their experience with a focus on meeting the data requirements of the award.

REC data workshop

Athena SWAN workshop for psychology

15 February 2016, London

This free workshop is jointly organised by the School of psychology at Queen’s University Belfast and the Department of psychology at Royal Holloway, University of London, holders of Athena SWAN Gold and Silver awards, respectively.

The workshop is for self-assessment team members from psychology (and related) departments in UK universities.

For more information and to book places visit the event website: Athena SWAN workshop for psychology

Heidi Plus training for equality practitioners

Various locations, March – April 2016

HESA are pleased to announce dedicated Heidi Plus training for equality practitioners.

The one day IT-based course will provide colleagues with comprehensive training on using this new system and how to best analyse the equality data within it, how to generate reports, and how the system can support your work with Athena SWAN.

The currently available events are listed below. Bookings will be allocated on a first come first served basis and therefore if you would like to receive hands-on training on how to use the new Heidi Plus book early to avoid disappointment. In order to make a booking or view further information visit HESA seminars

If you would like your event to be featured on our website and the next issue of Equalitylink, please email details to Gemma Instrall, Engagement Manager.