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Equalitylink January 2016


Welcome January 2016

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.

*Don’t miss our current opportunity to join the team.*
See the Get involved section below.

Equality update

ECU launches the Race Equality Charter

First awards for race equaltiy in HE

ECU’s Race Equality Charter, the first award scheme recognising race equality work in higher education, was officially launched on 20 January 2016. The commitment and progress of all the trial participants was celebrated with eight Bronze awards presented by Professor Laura Serrant, a patron of the Race Equality Charter. The Charter is now open to all higher education institutions in the UK.

Professor Serrant and civil rights campaigner Baroness Lawrence spoke about the need for action on the racial inequalities that exist in HE. Baroness Lawrence said that HE ‘has been abysmal and slow to engage with the racial inequalities that exist’. She went on to say that ‘there can be no excuse for these inequalities, the sector is failing black students and staff’. Patron Professor Kevin Hylton added his voice through a pre-recorded video underlining the importance of the charter for staff and students.

Jo Johnson MP, Universities and Science Minister, has given his support to the aims of the Charter: ‘These awards recognise the hard work of many universities to improve diversity on campus … The Race Equality Charter is a welcome step towards helping meet that common goal.’

Find out more

Follow the debates on Twitter: @ECURaceCharter and #racecharterhe.

Presentations from the day and Professor Hylton’s video are online.

There is a series of workshops, hosted across the UK, for those interested in participating, covering the process and requirements.

Read ECU REC manager Claire Herbert’s blog: Start the conversation to end the frustration

In the press

How much does your university do for race equality? Dr Nicola Rollock, Guardian Higher Education Network

Universities confront ‘horrifying’ figures on BME promotion Times Higher Education

Nurse to help improve race equality in universities Nursing Times

Minority ethnic academics receive lower NSS scores

Research finds link between undergraduate satisfaction and ethnicity of lecturers

Analysis of the 2014 results of the National Student Survey (NSS) scores found that the ethnicity of lecturers is one of the key factors in determining student satisfaction. University of Reading researchers have attributed this to an ‘unconscious bias’ held by some students.

Universities often use NSS scores to monitor academic departments’ performance. Most of the other recorded staff characteristics such as gender and age, and whether a lecturer holds a teaching qualification, did not have a statistically significant effect on student satisfaction.

More about unconscious bias

Biased students give BME academics lower scores. Times Higher Education

Trans equality recommendations for HE

Women and equalities committee calls for greater equality for trans people

The Women and equalities select committee made 30 recommendations based upon the findings of their inquiry into trans equality. These include changing the protected characteristic in the Equality Act 2010 from ‘gender reassignment’ to ‘gender identity’, introducing a legal category for people with a non-binary gender identity, and combatting transphobia.

The report acknowledges the bullying and harassment experienced by trans students in higher education and recommends university staff receive gender identity awareness training and take proactive steps to promote trans equality, including through a ‘transgender champion’ scheme for non-trans staff.

ECU responded to this select committee inquiry and will be releasing new guidance on supporting trans staff and students this year.

Trans equality report

Faith, ethnicity and place

Insight into the lives of young people in Scotland

A new research report has been published examining young people’s everyday lived experiences of place, politics and identity in Scotland. The research, which involved 382 young people (aged 12-26), reveals significant findings about young people’s experiences of diversity in Scotland, including religious and ethnic interaction, racism, sexism and homophobia, sense of identity and Scottishness.

College and university students, including international students, were included in the research, and the report draws out some key findings relating to experiences at college and university. For example:

  • young people are commonly mixing with different religious and ethnic groups at college or university
  • some specific ethnic or religious groups are more segregated at college and university, especially Muslim students
  • the drinking culture at universities is isolating some groups
  • for some, the global outlook and diversity of the university campus make it a safer space than school to express different faith and ethnic identities

Access the report: Faith, ethnicity and place

Peter Hopkins, who led the research, will be presenting key findings at ECU’s Scotland conference on 26 April.

Assessment metrics could damage diversity

The increasing use of metrics in assessing and promoting academic staff could be damaging to underrepresented groups including disabled people, people from minority ethnic backgrounds, women and early career research staff, according to a HEFCE blog.

A call for evidence from the Independent review of metrics for research assessment has resulted in 153 responses, some of which raise concerns about equality and diversity in research assessment and research culture.

HEFCE blog: Publish or perish? Metrics and research diversity

UN inquiry into the rights of disabled persons in the UK

The UN is conducting an enquiry into the impact of the UK government’s policies on disabled people in relation to their human rights obligations.

The enquiry is thought to be in relation to the effect of policies introduced by the government since 2010 and their effect on the ability of persons with disabilities to live independently and enjoy an adequate standard of living (Articles 19 and 28).

This is the first investigation of any country in relation to this convention.

Research briefing

Clarification: Transnational gender equality scheme proposed

In the December 2015 edition of Equalitylink, we published an article on the GENDER-NET project analysing the effectiveness of a number of gender equality schemes.

Due to an editing error we failed to note other schemes were found to be similarly successful, although ECU’s Athena SWAN was the only scheme to be assessed as both successful and transferable.

Our work

ECU is now a subscription organisation

As of January, ECU has changed to a subscription-based service for higher education institutions in England and Northern Ireland. Institutions must now subscribe to ECU in order to access our research, publications and advice line or take part in any of our Equality Charters.

Institutions in Wales and Scotland remain supported through funding agreements with the national funding councils.

Subscription to ECU ensures you’re supported in addressing your institution’s specific equality needs. Membership of our equality charters is included in the subscription package along with access to an essential community of inclusive practice and guidance.

If you have subscribed you can now 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

Impact of proposed HE changes on equality and diversity

Our response to the higher education green paper

In November 2015, the government launched an open consultation on ‘Fulfilling our potential: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice’. This green paper sets out proposals to change the higher education landscape.

ECU’s response welcomes the particular focus of the green paper on social mobility and widening participation, but calls for greater consideration of all protected characteristics and the impact of the proposals on different groups. We also recommend that the public sector equality duty of the Equality Act 2010 should be extended to new and alternative providers.

ECU’s response to the HE green paper

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

Get involved

Communications officer vacancy

Your chance to work for ECU

We are currently 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 direct them to our website.

Applications must be received by 12.00 pm on 1 February 2016.

ECU’s vacancies

ASSET 2016

HEIs to be invited to take part

The Athena Survey of Science, Engineering and Technology (ASSET) is a national survey that seeks to examine academics’ experiences, expectations and perceptions of gender equality in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) disciplines and in their HE institution.

The Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering, Society of Biology and the Academy of Medical Science are funding ECU to redevelop and run ‘ASSET 2016’.

The survey is due to launch in March 2016 and we will be making contact with selected institutions soon. A sample of higher education institutions will be invited to take part in the national survey using cluster sampling methods. This means that unlike in previous years, only academics working in the selected institutions will be eligible to participate in ASSET 2016.

Find out more about ASSET 2016

Help plan ECU’s annual conference 2016

We’re starting to plan our annual conference for 2016 and are keen to involve our subscribing institutions to shape the agenda.

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

The Leadership Foundation and Equality Challenge Unit have launched 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. The workshop is available at a reduced cost to HEIs 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.

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

Estranged students

Students who are estranged from their families can face many difficulties at university. Charity Stand Alone supports estranged students and released a report with Unite Foundation into the challenges faced by students in HE without the support of a family network.

New starts: the challenges of HE without the support of a family network

The Office for Fair Access has published a briefing paper on estranged students: Topic briefing: estranged students

Flexible hiring

The benefits of flexible working

A report funded by Joseph Rowntree Foundation has identified disparity between the supply and demand of flexible job vacancies. The report highlights the benefits of flexible hiring, including improving performance, utilising all of the workforce’s skills and preventing the loss of valuable employees.

The report recommends that the government demonstrates leadership as an employer, advertising their own vacancies as flexible and setting internal targets for flexible roles.

How flexible hiring could improve business performance and living standards

Minority ethnic employment disparity

Analysis by the Resolution Foundation outlines a 26 percentage point difference between best and worst parts of the UK for black and minority ethnic (BME) employment.

The study looked at 20 areas across the UK and found that the best area for BME employment is Scotland (outside of Glasgow), which had an employment rate of 74%, compared to the worst area, the North East (outside of Tyne and Wear), where less than half of working-age BME people were in work.

The employment gap reflects the fact that people with minority ethnic backgrounds in some parts of the country are more likely to face barriers to employment. Addressing the issues that prevent BME people from entering or staying in work will be essential if the UK is to move towards full employment, the analysis indicates.

Resolution Foundation analysis


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

Race Equality Charter data workshop

9 February 2016, University of Hertfordshire

Are you considering applying for ECU’s 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 learned from their experience with a focus on meeting the data requirements of the award.

REC data workshop

Introduction to ECU’s Race Equality Charter

February – May 2016, various locations

We are running a series of introductions to ECU’s Race Equality Charter to provide institutions that are interested in applying with all the information they need.

Further information and booking details:

The workshops will cover:

  • Overview of the history and methodology
  • The requirements of a Bronze award
  • Guidance on the composition of your self-assessment team and managing the application process
  • Collecting and analysing data
  • Understanding the student and staff pipelines
  • Effective action plans
  • Experience of the REC and lessons learnt by a successful award applicant
  • A chance to ask specific questions and get advice from the REC team

Athena SWAN workshop for psychology

15 February 2016, Royal Holloway, University of 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 who are 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: Athena SWAN workshop for psychology

Future directions in STEMM for disabled people

17 March 2016, The Royal Society, London

This event, hosted by the STEM disability advisory committee (DAC), will share and develop best practice in supporting the transitions of people with disabilities throughout education and employment.

The day will bring together disabled people, employers, career advisors and many others involved in supporting disabled students to transition within STEMM education, and into the world of work or apprenticeships.

STEMM DAC aims to increase understanding of how to ensure disabled people are fully supported in their transitions and to investigate the role that learned societies and professional bodies can play in complementing pathways to progression.

Future directions in STEMM for disabled people

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

Tackling violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students

19 April 2016, London

The challenge of tackling harassment and hate crime affecting students in higher education is one of the most complex the sector faces. The issues are vastly complicated with no easy solutions.

Universities UK are holding an event to provide an update on the work of their taskforce to address violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting students. The event will also be a forum to share examples of best practice and gather further evidence and insights from the sector on how best to address these issues.

Tackling violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students

Making diversity interventions count

1 June 2016, University of Bradford

Annual conference organised by the Centre for Inclusion and Diversity featuring contributions from a wide range of eminent national and international speakers on the latest research and development and the synthesis and application of knowledge.

The conference aims to explore the varying interventions aimed at advancing equality, with the objective of informing the development of good practice in the effective use of diversity interventions in organisations. The conference also provides a platform for the Barbara Burford annual memorial lecture. A lifelong champion of equality and diversity, Barbara inspired national level change through her work.

Participative, challenging and thought provoking – this conference is designed to provide an international, inter- and intra- disciplinary platform for exchange of ideas in the field of equality, diversity and inclusion in the world of work and service delivery.

Making diversity interventions count

Call for abstracts open until 21 March 2016.

Closing the gap: research and practice on Black and minority ethnic student attainment in HE

26 June 2016, University of Kent, Canterbury Campus

The Student Success (EDI) Project at the University of Kent is organising a special one-day conference, bringing together academic researchers, policymakers and practitioners on the issue of race and ethnicity in higher education. The conference will explore how we can inspire, support and share excellent practice in closing the attainment gap between white and Black and minority ethnic students.

Closing the gap: research and practice on Black and minority ethnic student attainment in HE

Call for abstracts open until 7 March 2016.

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.