Open Menu Close Menu

Equalitylink January 2015


Welcome January 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

Funding for ten thousand underrepresented postgraduates

HEFCE announce £50 million fund

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) has announced £50 million for match-funded bursaries to support 10,000 postgraduate students in 2015/16. The bursaries are aimed to enable disabled students and those from groups currently underrepresented at postgraduate level to pursue their studies.

In 2012/13 only 6.0% of taught postgraduates had disclosed as disabled compared to 10.8% of first degree undergraduates.

Underrepresentation was particularly stark for students with a specific learning difference, students experiencing mental health difficulties, and students with a social communication impairment of autistic spectrum disorder. The report also highlights a range of underrepresentation by subject type, with, for example, only 2.4% of students studying business and administrative studies subjects having disclosed as disabled, compared to 11.4% of students studying historical and philosophical studies.

Higher education institutions (HEIs) will need to use local evidence to determine which students to support within their taught postgraduate programmes. HEFCE have announced that this can be supplemented with evidence from HEFCE pilot projects, which identifies the ways in which institutions have targeted different types of students for support.

Postgraduate support scheme

Changes to disabled students allowance

Update from Department of Business, Innovation and Skills

From September 2015 some aspects of disabled students allowances (DSA) funding will be changing.

There are four key changes for 2015/16:

  • Eligible DSA students assessed as requiring a computer to undertake their studies because of their disability will be expected to contribute the first £200 towards the cost of their computer.
  • DSA will no longer pay for higher specification and/or higher cost computers simply because of the way in which a course is delivered. These will continue to be available where a student needs one solely by virtue of their disability.
  • Peripheral computer equipment (eg printers and scanners), consumable items and books will no longer be routinely funded through DSA.
  • Where specialist student accommodation is provided by the institution or its agent any additional costs will not be met by DSA. This does not apply to privately rented accommodation.

BIS is currently drafting guidance, which will be published early this year. The department aims to work with the sector to consider how the DSA study needs assessment process might be streamlined for students.

Student Finance England DSA update

New code of governance for university chairs

Equality included in good governance guidance

The Committee of University Chairs (CUC) has published a new code for university governing bodies. The code sets out seven key principles and practices and includes specific mention of governing bodies’ roles in promoting equality and diversity throughout higher education institutions. Governing bodies will be required to routinely reflect on their own composition and consider taking steps to ensure that it reflects ‘societal norms and values’.

CUC code of governance

ECU recently published guidance on leading change in equality and diversity that contained specific recommendations for governing bodies. These included ensuring new governing body appointments strengthen diversity of thinking and developing an inclusive leadership approach in the way that the governing body operates.

The rationale for equality and diversity: How vice-chancellors and principals are leading change

Commitment to lesbian, gay and bisexual equality

Nine universities feature in Stonewall top 100 employers

Nine universities have been named on Stonewall’s top 100 gay-friendly employers list.

The University of the West of England was placed highest at number 11, followed by Cardiff University (24), the University of Manchester and University of Sheffield (joint 43), St Georges, University of London (47), Leeds Beckett University (51), De Montfort University (75), York St John University (78) and the University of Birmingham (79).

Stonewall top 100 employers

Obesity discrimination ruling

EU Court of Justice finds obesity can be a disability

In December 2014 the European Court of Justice (CJEU) ruled that obesity can, in severe cases, constitute a disability.

The decision in the case of a Danish childminder who lost his job establishes a precedent that could affect employment rights across the Europe. It stops short, however, of declaring obesity to be a protected characteristic.

Case summary by the Equal Rights Trust

Civil partnerships and same-sex marriage

Partnerships can now be converted

Couples in civil partnerships are now able to convert them into a marriage, concluding the process of changing the law to give same sex couples the right to be married.

Couples will be issued with a marriage certificate which will show the marriage should be treated as having existed from the date of the original civil partnership.

Conversion of civil partnerships into marriage

Tackling underreporting of hate crimes

Serious levels of unreported incidents

In England and Wales, less than 4,500 homophobic and transphobic incidents and crimes were reported to police between 2012 and 2013, with just under 750 reports in Scotland. However, the Crime survey for England and Wales indicated 39,000 homophobic incidents took place in the same period.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has launched a project to tackle this significant underreporting of hate crime against lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in the UK.

This will include developing alternative reporting channels for people who do not wish to go to the official authorities. Particular attention will be paid to rural communities where reporting is especially low.

EHRC project to tackle LGB and T hate crime

Equal pay (transparency) bill

Bill makes its way through the House of Commons

The Equal pay (transparency) bill is expected to have its second reading debate in the House of Commons on 27 February 2015.

If successful, it will enact the dormant requirements of Section 78 of the Equality Act 2010, requiring employers in England with more than 250 staff to publish information relating to the pay of their employees for the purpose of showing differences in pay between male and female employees. There are already duties to publish pay data in Scotland and Wales.

Equal pay (transparency) bill

More about equal pay

Our work

Supporting you in 2015

ECU’s work supporting the sector

Following our most successful annual conference yet at the end of last year, our work in 2015 will continue to assist you in meeting equality challenges and responsibilities in a changing economic, political and educational landscape.

Over the next few months we will be launching a number of important pieces of research and guidance:

  • Supporting staff and students who are experiencing mental health difficulties in HE
  • Academic flight – black and minority ethnic academics working overseas
  • Developing academic expertise in equality and diversity
  • Equitable recruitment and admissions in colleges
  • Reasonable adjustments in colleges
  • Governance and equality in Scottish HEIs

Informed by the results of our stakeholder survey, which closed at the end of last week, we’re looking forward to developing our projects, programmes of work and communications to ensure they reach the widest audience possible.

In 2015, we are excited to see our equality charter marks develop and grow. Last year we announced the aligning of Athena SWAN and the gender equality charter mark. In May we will be holding the first race equality charter mark panels, with results later in the year.

Outside of the UK, there is growing interest in our charter marks as catalysts for equality. An Athena SWAN pilot will be launching in the Republic of Ireland in February. In Europe, ECU is undertaking a transnational project addressing common challenges to gender equality in research careers. Our role is to explore the impact of award schemes such as Athena SWAN and Project Juno on gender equality and to consider what a transnational award scheme may look like. We are looking forward to sharing the findings with you later this year.

Our work will also continue to tie into our four strategy areas:


Provide quantitative and qualitative evidence on equality and diversity within UK HEIs and colleges in Scotland to illuminate equality and diversity challenges in these sectors.


Work collaboratively with and assist external bodies on equality and diversity matters that impact on UK HEIs and colleges in Scotland.


Develop the case for equality and diversity to secure and maintain the commitment and support of institutional leaders.


Work with all institutions to identify and change any cultural and systemic practices that unfairly exclude, marginalise or disadvantage individuals or groups, and to promote inclusive approaches.

We will build on our role as an influential central body supporting institutions in continuing their progress, facilitating and instigating further sustained and fundamental institutional change.

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

Know Your Numbers infographics

Request extra copies of our booklet

ECU has had a number of requests for bulk orders of our Know your numbers booklets from institutions wanting to distribute copies to all heads of department and senior leaders.

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 will shortly be reprinting the booklet. To make sure we can keep price low for HEIs who might wish to order extra copies of this publication, we would like to know of any other bulk requests. If you would like to place an order for 20 or more copies, please email with details of the amount and where to send them, to

Know your numbers

Get involved

Guardian university awards 2015

ECU sponsors Advancing staff equality category

Enter the Guardian University Awards 2015 for the chance to stand out as an exceptional institution, share your successes and imaginative thinking with your peers, and boost your university’s profile in the media.

The ECU sponsored award for advancing staff equality recognises an outstanding initiative that has a significant and measurable impact on improving staff equality and/or diversity. This could range from a high-level institutional strategy to specific campaigns, but must have a lasting benefit for the careers and working lives of staff.

The awards showcase best practice, achievement and innovation across a range of categories.

All shortlisted entries will be invited to attend the awards ceremony in central London in March 2015, where the winners will be announced. In addition there will be a dedicated site which will host a university awards ideas bank, containing all the written submissions that made the shortlist.

Guardian university awards

Closing date: 26 January 2015

The 2014 winners were Kingston University. You can read here about the benefits winning the award has brought for them.

The impact of a Guardian University award: Nona McDuff, head of equality, diversity and inclusion, Kingston University.

ECU’s blog on the Guardian Awards 2014

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 insight into the assessment process. You will come away with a detailed understanding of what panels are looking for 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 to implement in your institution.

Becoming a panel member also gives you an opportunity to share your equality and diversity knowledge and/or subject expertise with peers from other institutions. It is an opportunity to build your professional networks and knowledge of equality and diversity.

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
  • Students
  • Industry representatives where applicable

More information about becoming a panellist

Call for papers: developing diversity competence

Equality and diversity in learning and teaching in Scottish higher education

We are inviting contributions to the second Equality Challenge Unit and Higher Education Academy Scotland joint conference supporting equality and diversity in learning and teaching in Scottish higher education.

We’re looking for abstracts for:

  • Workshops
  • Individual papers
  • Panels of papers
  • Debates

We would like to receive submissions from a range of people, including learning and teaching practitioners, equality and diversity practitioners and researchers. We are particularly interested in hearing from students including students’ association presidents and sabbatical officers, undergraduate students, postgraduate students and postgraduate researchers.

Deadline for submissions: 30 January 2015

Delegate bookings will open shortly.

Call for papers: developing diversity competence

Resources and support

Experiences of trans people in Europe

Findings from international LGBT survey

The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) undertook a survey of over 93000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people across Europe, providing the largest body of empirical evidence of its kind to date.

The FRA have recently published an analysis of the data from 6,579 trans respondents to the survey, examining the experiences of trans people in Europe, including issues of equal treatment and discrimination.

Being trans in the EU

LGBT survey: main results

Women and flexible working in Europe

New report by IPPR

Women and flexible working: Improving female employment outcomes in Europe was published by IPPR in December 2014.

This report considers the role that flexible working options can play in raising women’s employment rates, and reducing the number of women undertaking jobs below their skill level or who are underemployed in terms of hours, throughout Europe. It also assesses the extent and nature of demand for, and the challenges and opportunities of, flexible working practices.

Women and flexible working: Improving female employment outcomes in Europe

Briefing on the Immigration Act 2014 and pilot immigration checks

New briefing by the Race Equality Foundation and Equanomics UK

The Immigration Act 2014 changed eligibility rules for migrant access to public services including healthcare, private rented housing, bank accounts and driving licences and had significant implications for international students and staff in universities.

The Immigration Act 2014, piloting immigration checks in the private rented sector and the potential for race discrimination outlines a pilot launched in the West Midlands and, looks at the key race equality issues.

Briefing on the Immigration Act 2014 and pilot immigration checks


Equality and diversity: progress and challenges in leading researchers

26 January 2015, London

This conference organised by Vitae, looks at equality and diversity within the research environment. Presentations will cover progress made, sector drivers, mainstreaming and unconscious bias. Speakers include Professor Athene Donald, University of Cambridge, Professor Yvonne Galligan, Queens University Belfast and Professor Michelle Ryan, University of Exeter.

Progress and challenges in leading researchers

Promoting good relations: train the trainer

12 February 2015, Cardiff

This training course builds on the ECU good relations guidance and is intended to support institutions to develop the knowledge and skills to effectively manage a range of good relations issues.

Through practical exercises and opportunity for discussion participants will explore the steps that institutions can take to prevent tensions between different groups developing, deal with incidents that do arise, and encourage the development of an inclusive environment which promotes both freedom of expression and protection from discrimination.

This training will be of interest to anyone who is responsible for ensuring that institutions manage and maintain good relations, including equality and diversity practitioners, student services teams, chaplains and faith advisers, and press and communications specialists.

The training is free of charge for higher education institutions within the UK and colleges in Scotland.

Promoting good relations: train the trainer

Promoting good relations guidance

Equitable admissions and unconscious bias

Monday 23 February 2015, Stirling

This ECU event will look at the role of unconscious bias in student admissions and emerging practice in fair admissions.


  • To raise awareness of how unconscious bias can play a part in admissions
  • To consider sector trends in admissions
  • To look at emerging practice in fair admissions
  • To introduce guidance on equitable admissions.

The event has been developed by ECU with the College Development Network for colleges in Scotland and is open to those involved with student admissions and guidance.

Equitable admissions and unconscious bias

Women in the workplace – next steps for policy and best practice

5 March 2014, London

This conference looks at actions that can be taken to improve gender equality in the workplace, focussing on flexible working and the introduction to shared parental leave. It also looks at the steps needed to increase female participation in STEM subjects and what can be done to increase the number of women in senior positions and on company boards.

Jo Swinson MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Women and Equalities and Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Women and Equalities Minister will a deliver keynote addresses at the conference. Speakers include Professor Simonetta Manfredi, Director of the Centre for diversity policy research and practice at Oxford Brookes University.

There is a charge to attend this conference.

Women in the workplace event

It all adds up: celebrating women across the mathematical sciences

14-17 April 2015, Oxford

In 2015, the London Mathematical Society’s annual Women in Maths day will be expanded to four days, as part of the LMS 150th Anniversary  celebrations, with two days for school students and two days for university mathematicians and mathematical scientists.

Two days will be dedicated to mathematicians and mathematical scientists at all stages of their careers.  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

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