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Equalitylink March 2015


Welcome March 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

Advancing staff equality award

ECU sponsors category at Guardian University Awards

ECU sponsored the Advancing staff equality award for the second year running at the Guardian University Awards, held in London on 18 March.

The University of Essex won first place for developing the Essex LGBT Alliance – an initiative that has made tangible differences for staff, built partnerships across 18 different organisations and led to a 28% increase in staff disclosing their sexual orientation.

Congratulations are also due to runners up University of Birmingham, whose work, including an advancing equality in employment initiative, has improved the promotion opportunities of underrepresented groups.

Read David Ruebain’s blog on the importance of the award: Leading the way: advancing staff equality to advance the sector

Further details of these initiatives are available on the awards website.

Guardian University Awards ideas bank 2015

DSA changes postponed

2015/16 changes deferred until following academic year

Following wide consultation on their draft Disabled Students’ Allowances (DSA) guidance for 2015/16, the government has announced that proposed changes will be deferred until 2016/17.

It was originally proposed that support for accommodation, peripherals and consumables would no longer be provided by DSA, but would have required additional reasonable adjustments from institutions.

These changes will now be postponed until 2016/17, and have stated that changes will only be made once continued consultation with the sector and stakeholders has taken place to ensure the specific changes are introduced effectively.

DSA changes in 15/16: update for practitioners

Cuts plans face legal challenge

In February, it was announced that a number of students were to proceed with a judicial review of proposals to limit the non-medical support offered by the DSA.

The challenge is based on whether BIS consulted with a wide enough group regarding the changes. The students are represented by Irwin Mitchell and supported in the claim by the National Deaf Children’s Society and Ambitious about Autism.

Irwin Mitchell statement

BME academic flight

Keeping BME academics in UK HE

More action is needed to halt the ‘leaky pipeline’ of black and minority ethnic (BME) academics, according to research commissioned by ECU.

Our survey of 1201 academics working in the UK and overseas found that BME academics are significantly more likely to consider moving overseas in the hopes of furthering their careers than white academics.

Writing in the foreword to the report, vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool Janet Beer said:

‘We must publicly embrace, support and acknowledge the talent of our BME academics in the UK – and encourage those who have left to return … I would encourage senior colleagues across the sector to reflect on how they can address the issues this report highlights.’

Janet Beer’s blog: We need to talk about race

Academic flight: how to encourage BME academics to stay in UK HE

Gender bias in history departments

Royal Historical Society report highlights discrimination

A report released recently by the Royal Historical Society found that current policies against discrimination based on gender in history departments are not working.

Gender equality and historians in UK higher education draws on a survey of over 700 history academics. Just 20 per cent of female respondents to the survey were professors, despite women making up 39 per cent of the history academic workforce.

The report looked at bias, discrimination and harassment and found that a quarter of respondents to the survey had experienced, observed or suspected gender discrimination in promotion decisions and the allocation of major administrative roles. Meanwhile 22 per cent noted it in conduct at meetings and 12 per cent in invitations to deliver keynote lectures.

The report recommends history departments carry out an equities audit and consider applying for the ECU’s gender equality charter mark.

Gender equality and historians in UK higher education

ECU’s gender equality charter mark

Experiences of pregnant and returning mothers

New investigation by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland

The Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is conducting a formal investigation into the treatment of pregnant workers and mothers in workplaces across Northern Ireland.

The investigation will look at the workplace experiences of women following pregnancy and consider the experiences of employers in managing pregnancy and maternity leave, and returning mothers. It will also seek to identify barriers to equal treatment and highlight good practice.

The commission are encouraging women who are currently pregnant or who have been pregnant within the past five years to take part in a survey.

Equality Commission for Northern Ireland survey

Our work

ECU to move to a subscription service

Change to ECU funding from 1 January 2016

From 1 January 2016 higher education institutions in England will be invited to subscribe directly to ECU.

ECU currently receives a significant proportion of our core funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, to support English higher education institutions to advance equality and diversity and meet the requirements of equality legislation. Due to the changed funding regime in England, HEFCE will no longer be in a position to provide ongoing core funding to ECU, alongside a number of other sector bodies.

The current funding period comes to an end in January 2016, and from this point English HEIs will need to subscribe to ECU to continue to access our services, resources and advice, and to take part in our equality charters, including Athena SWAN.

ECU’s funding for work in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is agreed separately. We are currently in discussion with the funding bodies and sector organisations including Universities Wales. We will keep you informed of developments.

If the funding structure remains as it is, institutions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have full access to ECU’s subscriber website portal from January 2016, providing an enhanced experience and more opportunities to engage.

You can find out what the changes to ECU mean for you online.

ECU to move to a subscription service

Athena SWAN consultation response

In November 2014 ECU announced our intention to expand the scope and aims of the Athena SWAN charter in line with our successful gender equality charter mark trial.

This will open the charter to arts, humanities, social science, business and law departments, cover wider issues of gender inequality and also consider the progression of professional, technical and support staff.

We conducted a consultation in November and December 2014 on the impact the proposed changes may have on charter members. One hundred and fifty-one valid responses were returned.

Respondents were broadly in favour of the expansion of the charter and inclusion of new areas, and provided helpful feedback on the potential implications, concerns and areas to be considered.

ECU’s equality charter team have been taking forward the recommendations and feedback from the consultation. The development of the charters is complex and several areas will need further consideration to ensure that the charter is workable in practice for institutions and departments, while still encouraging them to set ambitious targets for real and lasting change.

Gender charter marks consultation update

Catch up with the ECU blog

Members of the ECU team have been busy blogging about their work and activities. Did you catch our recent posts?

  • Improving apprenticeships for all: Is everyone getting the chance to benefit? asks Chris Brill.
  • What is Women’s Day? Is it really necessary?: Gemma Tracey ponders what international women’s day, and women’s history month means in the higher education sector, 100 years on.
  • Leading the way: advancing staff equality to advance the sector: David Ruebain considers the need to recognise those institutions that are leading the way in staff equality and diversity

See all our blogs online: ECU blog

ECU in the news

Last month ECU launched a report which highlighted that around half of staff and students in UK universities with mental health difficulties are not asking for the help and support they may need out of lack of information or fear of receiving unfair treatment.

The Guardian wrote an article highlighting the key findings from our survey of 2063 HE staff and 1442 students.

The report was launched at an event with Universities UK, which looked at student wellbeing issues. Times Higher Education covered the event on their website.

The launch of the report coincided with University Mental Health Day on 18 February. The #UniMentalHealthDay hashtag had people talking on Twitter and Times Higher Education featured ECU’s tweets in its round up of the day’s discussion and activities.

The launch of Athena SWAN in the Republic of Ireland helped raise the profile of gender equality in the country, with a number of articles appearing in the Irish Examiner encouraging universities to engage with the charter and for funding to be linked to the scheme.

Gender equality in universities was also a hot topic in Scotland, with the newspaper Herald Scotland sharing new data showing that only 21.8 per cent of professors at Scottish universities are women, despite the fact they make up 45 per cent of the academic workforce.  ECU’s Athena SWAN scheme was cited as a key initiative for achieving progress on this issue.

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

Help shape ECU’s new guidance on supporting trans people

Have your say on what should be included

We are updating our guidance on supporting trans people working and learning in higher education institutions across the UK and colleges in Scotland.

The new guidance, being developed in consultation with trans organisations, will help institutions meet their legal responsibilities, ensure policies and procedures better meet the needs of trans people and most importantly, provide effective support to staff and students.

The guidance will build on two of our publications:

Trans staff and students in HE and Supporting a student or member of staff who is transitioning.

We need your help to shape the new guidance

Do you have an example you can share? We are particularly interested in building a picture of the work that is under way in institutions covering the new areas of guidance.

Are you willing to share your experience as a trans person or as a member of staff developing policies and processes?  We are keen on developing our bank of case studies.

Have you developed a policy or found an excellent resource that you’d like to share with other practitioners?

Are there other areas you would like the revised guidance to cover?

Have your say

Publications assistant

Join ECU’s Communications team

We are expanding the capacity and focus of our communications team, and have a new position available for a Publications Assistant. Please pass this opportunity on to anyone you think may be interested.

Publications Assistant

Salary: £25,363 pro rata per annum, 6-month fixed term

To provide publications support to the communications officer, contributing to the development of high-quality communications encompassing printed literature, publications, branding and corporate identity and internal communications.

Download the job information pack

Deadline for applications: Monday 30 March 2015 at 12 noon

Invitation to tender

Customer relationship management system and website portal

ECU is inviting tenders for the delivery of a fully integrated customer relationship management system and website user portal.

The total value of the tender is up to £50,000including VAT (if applicable), and the closing date is 12 noon on 10 April 2015.

Please pass these details on to any contacts that may be interested.

Invitation to tender

Resources and support

Equitable admissions in Scottish colleges

This guidance aims to familiarise college staff involved in recruitment and admissions with relevant equality principles and provide information on essential equality concepts.

Equitable admissions in Scottish colleges

New returners to bioscience group

The Society of Biology has established a ‘Returners to bioscience’ group to examine the experiences of those who face such difficulties in returning to a career in the biosciences as well as those who achieve success.

The group, which features representatives from funders, employers, learned societies and a number of former returners themselves, seeks to provide resources and mechanisms to support scientists before, during and after a career break.

For further information or to provide a case study, please contact Catherine Ball.

Society of Biology returners group

Society of Biology returners resources

New HESA statistics on staff in HE

Data for 2013/14

Data recently released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) shows that 45% of academic staff were female, but at senior levels women made up 22% of professors, and 33% of other senior academic staff.

The majority of non-academic staff in 2013/14 were women (63%), including 54% of managerial, professional and technical staff and 82% of clerical staff.

New HESA stats on staff in HE

Data provided by HESA is used in ECU’s equality in higher education statistical reports.

ECU’s Equality in higher education statistical reports


Share your events on Twitter

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

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

Developing diversity competence conference

23 April 2015, Edinburgh

The second annual ECU and Higher Education Academy Scotland conference supporting equality and diversity in learning and teaching in Scottish higher education.

By developing diversity competence – in our students and in our staff – we not only create a higher education environment in which all students can feel as though they belong, but we also equip them with vital intercultural and diversity skills that will enable them to succeed in a globalised and interconnected world.

This conference will focus on how we can ensure that our students and staff are able to negotiate this world in a manner that values, preserves, and responds to equality and diversity.

Developing diversity competence

National women in engineering day

23 June 2015, nationwide

Less than 10% of the engineering workforce is female. National women in engineering day (NWED) 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 females 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

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.