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Equalitylink February 2015


Welcome February 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

Mental health: staff and students not accessing support

Survey finds fear of disclosure leading to people missing out on support

Around half of staff and students in UK universities with mental health difficulties are not asking for the help and support they may need. According to our survey of 2063 HE staff and 1442 students reasons cited included lack of information or fear of receiving unfair treatment.

Around 60% of student respondents and around 50% of staff respondents had not officially spoken to anyone in their university about getting support or adjustments they needed to engage fully in education and employment opportunities.

However, seeking support can have real benefits in helping students meet their course requirements or manage their workload efficiently. The majority of people who had told colleagues or fellow students received a supportive or very supportive response.

Understanding adjustments: supporting staff and students who are experiencing mental health difficulties

18 February was University mental health and wellbeing day. It focused on the theme I chose to disclose to raise awareness and increase clarity about the disclosure process in universities. The day is organised annually by the University Mental Health Advisers Network. You can follow conversations about the day on Twitter #unimentalhealthday #Ichosetodisclose.

Updated guidance for universities on student mental health and wellbeing has been launched by the Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education Working Group and Universities UK.

Student mental wellbeing in HE good practice guide

Aiming Higher on race inequality

New Runnymede Trust report calls for change

Race inequality remains prevalent throughout all areas of higher education, including staffing, admissions and employment, according to a report released by race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust.

The report found that despite an increase of black and minority ethnic (BME) students in higher education overall, they remain underrepresented and are less likely to get jobs that match their education level. The report highlighted inequality in recruitment and promotion, with very low numbers of BME academics progressing to professorships.

The report recommends the role of unconscious bias training in admissions and recruitment, and institutions trying to tackle inequality through initiatives including ECU’s race charter mark.

Aiming Higher report

A short film highlighting the key points accompanies the report: Aiming higher: Race equality in HE film

ECU’s response to the report

Equality and diversity prioritised in HEFCE grant letter

Government call for focus on diverse talent

The secretary of state for business, innovation and skills (BIS) and the minister for universities and science have called for greater diversity at all levels in universities.

The annual grant letter from BIS to the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) sets out funding for higher education and the government’s priorities for the coming year. It highlights the lack of diversity in senior leadership and calls for the sector to go ‘much further’ to seek out and harness diverse talent.

The letter expresses support for work undertaken by HEFCE and other sector bodies which would include ECU to ensure greater diversity in university leadership and governance.

The return of inclusion of equality and diversity is particularly welcome after it featured strongly in the 2013 grant letter but was not included in the 2014 grant letter.

HEFCE grant letter

ECU response

Freedom of expression on campus

New guidance from EHRC

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published new legal guidance on freedom of expression. The new guidance aims to help address the misunderstanding around specific areas of Britain’s laws on freedom of expression and help public bodies navigate their way through this complex legal area.

EHRC guidance on freedom of expression

ECU guidance on good relations on campus

British Sign Language (Scotland) bill

HEIs required to publish BSL plan

The British Sign Language (Scotland) bill was introduced by Mark Griffin MSP on 29 October 2014 and aims to promote the use of BSL and its use in the delivery of services.

116 public authorities in Scotland, including universities and colleges will be subject to the bill, which will require organisations to prepare and publish their own BSL plans.

It is hoped that the bill will go some way to removing barriers for BSL users in accessing education and employment. Universities and colleges are therefore likely to see an increase in the number of learners or staff who are BSL users and should consider how to develop their practices to be inclusive and enabling.

Timescales in the bill suggest that the first BSL plan should be published in May 2017.

British Sign Language (Scotland) bill

Our work

Athena SWAN launches in the Republic of Ireland

Minister welcomes ECU gender equality charter

A major national initiative supported by Ireland’s Higher Education Authority has seen ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter expanded to Ireland.

Seven universities, 14 institutes of technology and the Royal College of Surgeons have signed up to the charter committing them to advance women’s careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine employment in academia.

Gender inequality is high on the agenda in the HE sector. Across Irish universities, only 19% of professors are women. In institutions of technology, women make up 45% of academic staff but just 29% of senior academic staff. In subjects such as physical science, mathematics, ICT and engineering the gender balance drops even further.

Minister for Education and Skills, Jan O’Sullivan, launched the charter at a well-attended event. She said, ‘Actively promoting gender equality is an important goal. Gender equality should be central to how all public organisations operate. The principal of equality demands nothing less. I congratulate the institutions who have signed up to ECU’s Athena SWAN Charter, who will be playing a part of building cultures where all, whatever their gender, can thrive.’

Participants will be able to submit for an Athena SWAN award in April 2015.

Athena SWAN Charter launches in Ireland

Know your numbers

Request extra copies of our statistics snapshot

ECU has had a number of requests for bulk orders of our Know your numbers booklets. Institutions are using the booklet to highlight to departments and senior leaders the equality challenges the sector faces.

The mini booklet of infographics taken from our HE stats report has been designed to raise awareness of equality and diversity data across institutions and encourage wider audiences to engage with equality issues.

We have now reprinted the booklet. We can provide up to 10 copies free of charge. Orders over this will cost £1 per booklet including postage. Email to order copies.

Know your numbers

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

Get involved

Share your events on Twitter

If you’d like us to help promote your equality events, tweet us @EqualityinHE.

A wide range of events and activities are taking place across higher education institutions for the following national and international days.

February is LGBT history month

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) history month helps to promote equality and diversity by increasing the visibility of LGBT people, their history, lives and experiences. #LGBTHM15.

LGBT history month

International women’s day

International women’s day will be held on 8 March 2015, celebrating women’s achievements and calling for greater equality across the world. The theme is ‘Make it happen. #womensday.

International women’s day

Call for evidence

Assessment arrangements for learners experiencing mental health difficulties

ECU has been commissioned by the Scottish Qualifications Authority to gather evidence of:

  • the barriers learners experiencing a range of mental health difficulties may face in relation to assessment arrangements
  • what effective solutions/alternative assessment methods colleges currently use to overcome these barriers
  • how colleges use existing SQA guidance/principles to identify and make adjustments in assessments
  • whether additional guidance/support from SQA would be helpful for colleges

If you have views on these topics that you would like to share please email Senior Policy Adviser Chris Brill or phone 0207 438 1021.

Become a panellist for our charter marks

Race equality charter trial panels and Athena SWAN

Participating in an equality charter mark panel gives you an invaluable experience of the assessment process. You will come away with a detailed understanding of how panels work, and insight into how other institutions analyse their data and make progress on their action plan.

Reading through multiple applications will also give you plenty of good practice ideas you may wish to consider implementing in your institution.

Being on a panel member also gives you an opportunity to build your professional networks and share learning among peers.

We are currently seeking panellists with the following roles and specialisms:

  • Academics
  • Professional services staff
  • Equality and diversity practitioners
  • HR practitioners
  • Representatives of research councils, research institutes, learned societies and professional bodies
More information about becoming a panellist
Resources and support

Parental leave and shared parental leave update

Acas resources on the changes take place in April 2015

Shared parental leave is a new legal entitlement for eligible parents of babies due, or children placed for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015.

  • Employed mothers will continue to be entitled to 52 weeks of maternity leave and 39 weeks of statutory maternity pay or maternity allowance.
  • Adopters will have the same rights as other parents to shared parental leave and pay.
  • If they choose to do so, an eligible mother can end her maternity leave early and, with her partner or the child’s father, opt for shared parental leave instead of maternity leave. If they both meet the qualifying requirements, they will need to decide how they want to divide their shared parental leave and pay entitlement.
  • Paid paternity leave of two weeks will continue to be available to fathers and a mother’s or adopter’s partner, however additional paternity leave will be removed.

Acas shared parental leave guidance

Changes are also being made to parental leave. Parental leave is for employees to take time off work to look after a child’s welfare, this leave is normally unpaid. At present this leave can be taken up to the child’s fifth birthday, however, in April 2015 the age limit will increase to under 18 years.

Acas parental leave guidance

UK universities obliged to protect women students from abuse and harassment

New briefing by EVAW

A new legal briefing published by the End Violence Against Women campaign outlines how UK universities protect women students from sexual assault and other forms of violence against women.

Their briefing sets out how human rights and equality law may render university and college policies and procedures with regard to abuse of women unlawful.

It also argues that the misuse of university resources, including the use of university computers or email addresses to abuse and harass women students, or allowing the promotion of sexist or discriminatory events may be unlawful.

Spotted: obligations to protect women students’ safety and equality

New training on gender identity and trans issues

Free online training modules

The Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) has produced two free e-learning modules. These look at caring for gender nonconforming young people and transgender awareness for employers and service providers. The resources aim to help professionals and families understand the needs of these young people.

The course is free and takes around 45 minutes to complete. It is designed for healthcare staff and support staff but is also suitable for people working in education.

GIRES e-learning modules

ECU is currently updating guidance on supporting trans people working and learning in higher education institutions across the UK and colleges in Scotland. Help shape this new guidance by sharing your experiences, resources and inclusive practice with us.

Share your good practice

Supporting trans staff and students

Making fair financial decisions

Guidance from EHRC Scotland

The Equality and Human Rights Commission in Scotland has published an updated guide Making fair financial decisions. It sets out what is expected of decision makers and leaders of Scottish public authorities responsible for delivering services at national, regional or local level, in order to make sure decisions are as fair as possible.

The public sector equality duty in Scotland supports public authorities to demonstrate that they are making financial decisions in a fair, transparent and accountable way, considering the needs and the rights of different members of the community.

This guidance will be useful to senior leaders and HR teams faced with reorganisations, relocations, redundancies and service reductions.

Making fair financial decisions

Men as change agents for gender equality

New GEO report

This report by the Government Equalities Office (GEO), based on a seminar that took place in June 2014, discusses ways the government is engaging with men and boys in the campaign for gender equality.

It looks at men’s role in achieving gender equality, the benefits of gender equality for all of society and methods of engaging and involving men in these issues, as well as some of the challenges involved.

Speakers in the report repeatedly reference the importance of recognising the multiple and diverse experiences of individuals, and the impact of issues including race, sexual identity and sexual orientation, religion and socio-economic background on individual experiences.

Men as change agents for gender equality

University of Chester diversity festival

2-13 March 2015, Chester

Oona King, Baroness of Bow will be launching the University of Chester’s annual diversity festival. Highlights includes a conference delivered in partnership with the National Association of Disabled Staff Networks on 4 March.

Chris Brill, Senior Policy Adviser at ECU, will be running a workshop on what can be done to remove the barriers to employing disabled people.

Full programme of events

Quotas: the only way, or no way? Gender imbalance and equality vs quality

4 March 2015, Liverpool

This debate for International Women’s Day looks at what can be done to increase the number of women in senior roles. It will explore whether mandatory quotas for management boards have proved effective in addressing gender imbalance in some countries.

The debate will be hosted by Professor Susan Wray, Director of Athena Swan at the University of Liverpool. Speakers will include the vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool and ECU’s chair of board, Professor Janet Beer and ECU’s chief executive, David Ruebain.

Quotas: the only way, or no way?

AUA annual conference and exhibition

30 March – 1 April 2015, Nottingham

The Association of University Administrators conference will be held in Nottingham with the theme of ‘Disruption, diversity and devolution’.

The diversity strand focuses on the diversifying market and internationalisation of higher education, looking at the increasing diversity of staff and students and the differentiation between and within higher education providers. ECU will have a stand as part of the exhibition.

AUA annual conference and exhibition

It all adds up: celebrating women across the mathematical sciences

14-17 April 2015, Oxford

This year the London Mathematical Society’s annual Women in Maths day has been expanded to four days, as part of the LMS 150th Anniversary celebrations. Two days will be targeted at school students and two days at university mathematicians and mathematical scientists.

There will be a mix of lectures by invited speakers, panel discussions on a range of topics, contributed talks by early career researchers, and posters.

Celebrating women across the mathematical sciences

National women in engineering day

23 June 2015

Less than 10% of the engineering workforce is female. National women in engineering day has been established to bring gender diversity and equality to the engineering and wider scientific sector.

Last year over 250 schools and 100 organisations were involved, each hosting their own events and activities to promote and support more women in this male-dominated industry.

NWED would like to encourage more universities to commit to holding an event this year. A resource pack is available for those interested in organising and hosting activities and events for NWED.

NWED resources pack

Save the date: ECU governing bodies, equality and diversity in Scottish HEIs

30 June 2015, Scotland

ECU will be launching findings on the role of governing bodies in Scotland in overseeing the equality work of their institutions and how they are working to increase the diversity of their membership.

More details will be available in the next Equalitylink.

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