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Equalitylink May 2016


Welcome May 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.

Equality update

Equality implications of HE white paper

Provision of equality information

The government published the long-awaited higher education white paper on 16 May.

Success as a knowledge economy: teaching excellence, social mobility and student choice builds on the proposals set out in the green paper to improve opportunities for disadvantaged groups.

Higher education institutions will be required to publish data on application, offer and progression by ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic background.

Provision of this information, along with overall participation rates, continuation rates, degree attainment and outcome and employment outcomes will help the sector to understand the barriers that exist – and put in place measures to overcome disadvantage.

ECU’s response to the HE white paper.

What would ‘Brexit’ mean for equality in Britain’s universities?

David Ruebain takes a look

As the date of the EU referendum approaches, many leaders of UK higher education have come out firmly in favour of staying in Europe. More widely, there are daily news releases which explain why remaining or leaving will be good or bad for business, security, the economy, migration and indeed every aspect of public life.

ECU’s Chief Executive, David Ruebain explores what ‘Brexit’ would mean for equality and diversity law and practice in Britain and our universities in his latest blog.

ECU blog

Disabled students’ allowance

Update on the changes to DSA

The government has recently announced changes to the availability of Disabled Students’ Allowance to higher education students from England (regardless of where they choose to study in the UK). These changes will take effect from 2016/2017.

From 2016/2017 there will be limited DSA funding made available to HEIs from the government. HEIs will remain responsible for providing reasonable adjustments and encouraged to work towards the long-term goal of creating inclusive learning environments.

Last year, the Department for Business, innovation and skills (BIS) sent a letter to all vice-chancellors outlining the changes to DSA which includes further information about the instances where funds will still be made available via DSA.

ECU has joined the BIS-led Disabled students sector leadership group (DSSLG). The purpose of the group is to support the higher education sector in responding to the changes to DSAs and to explore how to enhance inclusivity in the learning environment. In July, the DSSLG will share with the sector information around the inclusive learning environment, and, using existing materials, indicate possible interventions for the short and medium term.

In addition to the outputs of the DSSLG, ECU will be developing mechanisms to support subscribers to share practical approaches to meeting the changes.

Supporting young men in HE

Report calls for ‘bring your son to university’ days

The Higher Education Policy Institute released a report on 12 May focused on issues of underrepresentation of men in higher education, lower levels of retention and lower likelihood of securing a top degree than women.

Boys to Men: The underachievement of young men in higher education – and how to start tackling it highlights that there are ‘few detailed studies of the problem and almost no clear policy recommendations on what to do about it’. The authors also found that ‘only two higher education institutions currently have a specific target to recruit more male students’ and call for this to be rectified.

The report sparked much debate, with a number of responses questioning the focus and findings of the report. ECU feels that this is a complex area which needs to take into account intersectionality of student identities, socioeconomic status and the local context.

ECU’s response

NUS response

First non-STEMM and extended Athena SWAN awards announced

Awards now cover professional and support staff

Seven institutions, 76 departments and one research institute gained Athena SWAN awards at the end of April, recognising their commitment to gender equality and career progression in higher education.

For the first time, this awards round was open to arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law departments (AHSSBL) alongside science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine (STEMM) disciplines.

Five AHSSBL departments have been successful in gaining the new Bronze award. Durham University’s School of Government and International Affairs is joined by the Schools of Modern Languages and of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s University Belfast, and the Schools of Economics and of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh.

In May 2015 the Athena SWAN Charter criteria was expanded to include the progression of professional and support staff, as well as academics. The University of Westminster is the first to receive an institutional Bronze award under the expanded criteria.

Newcastle University and the University of Sheffield joined the elite group of universities holding Silver institution awards, bringing the total number with this award to nine. Additionally, the Institute of Cancer Research was awarded a Silver research institute award, bringing the total number to three.

Athena SWAN awards announced

EHRC strategic plan published

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published its strategic plan for 2016–19, saying that it ‘will have a significant impact on the effort to make Britain a fairer place for us all’.

The plan outlines four strategic aims.

  • Significant impact – to secure advances in equality and human rights in priority areas
  • A strong evidence base – to provide authoritative analysis and insight
  • Sustainable infrastructure – to ensure an effective and sustainable infrastructure to protect rights in practice
  • Improved capability – to be an expert, independent and authoritative national body

EHRC strategic plan 2016-19

Our work

Attract, assess, appoint:

Good practice in recruitment and selection

Ensuring that recruitment and selection processes are fair, evidence-based and effective continues to be a priority for colleges and HEIs. ECU is in the process of developing a programme of webinars which will support institutions in developing and implementing recruitment processes that are accessible and inclusive.

The first seminar will look at job descriptions and person specifications and how to ensure that equality and diversity are embedded into these key documents. Seminars two and three will build on this with a focus on reasonable adjustment and accommodation, and unconscious bias in recruitment and selection.

We’ll be announcing full details and dates in the coming months.

Know your numbers

Key equality stats and infographics

Our new Know your numbers booklet uses information from our Equality in higher education: statistical report 2015, using data on the 2013/14 staff and student cohort.

This short report visualises some of the key representation, progression and success statistics for students and the key representation, earnings and contract levels for staff.

The infographics featured in the report highlight the data behind some of the key equality challenges that face higher education institutions. The images and the booklet itself can be downloaded for use on social media, websites, posters and presentations.

Know your numbers

Building communities of good practice

Wellcome Trust funded project

With limited resources, it is particularly important for higher education institutions to focus on proven initiatives that have a real impact on equality.

Using funding from the Wellcome Trust, ECU has recently completed a pilot project analysing 62 successful Athena SWAN Charter submissions to identify gender equality initiatives that have had an impact on departmental cultures, structures and practices.

Over the coming months we will be focusing on a number of key topics that have emerged from the analysis to share top tips and case studies.

Increasing diversity

Recruiting students from underrepresented groups

We have recruited 12 institutions to take part in our new project looking at student admissions, Increasing diversity: recruiting students from underrepresented groups.

The chosen initiatives will be looking at addressing underrepresentation across a range of subjects including healthcare, education, media and museum studies; exploring and developing links with schools, colleges and employers from within and outside their region.

Projects will consider elements of the student journey, including pre-application and the learning environment, and will work with potential and existing students to develop robust evidence of what issues are and how to address them. We will be sharing research findings, as well as challenges and successes associated with the initiatives throughout the lifespan of the projects.

Increasing diversity participants announced

ECU is moving

New addresses for London and Edinburgh offices

After 10 years at our London office in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, we are delighted to announce that we will be moving to new premises in South London in June 2016.

We are making the move to reduce our running costs and improve accessibility, while remaining close to transport links.

In Edinburgh, we have taken space in NUS Scotland’s office allowing us to greatly improve accessibility and to increase opportunities for collaborative working.

We are moving

Get involved

Present a paper at the ECU conference

Connect, collaborate, share

ECU’s 2016 conference will take place on 29 and 30 November 2016 in Nottingham.

The theme will be Connect, collaborate, share: building the equality community in HE. The conference aims to foster connections between institutions on common areas of their equality work and to build a stronger community of practice for equality in HE.

We are looking for you to share your experience and innovation through workshops, short papers and posters around the following themes:

  • Connecting within your institution
  • Collaborating beyond your institution
  • Sharing your equality practice

How to submit a proposal

The deadline for proposals is 17.00, 31 May 2016.

Booking for the conference will open in July.

Call for governor profiles and examples

Equality and diversity resource for governors

Equality Challenge Unit (ECU) in partnership with the Leadership Foundation is currently in the process of developing an online resource available to university governors around the topic of equality and diversity and the role governors and governing bodies play in ensuring equality and diversity are centre stage in an institution’s work.

The resource will be a source of expert information and advice on aspects of equality and diversity in HEIs that are important to governors, including the major trends in the field that contribute to an institution’s success. It will enable governors to fulfil their duties around equality and diversity to the best of their abilities.

We would like to gather from governors some examples of specific ways in which they are delivering on their equality responsibilities, for example, mechanisms they use to oversee equality objectives are being met by the institution, how they hold the institution to account on equality legislation, or how they use equality information and data to inform their decision making.

We would also like to include some profiles of governors, especially those who are heavily involved with equality and have a passion for the topic.

To contribute a profile or example email Freya Douglas at ECU by 10 June 2016.

Join the team

Policy and resources officer, Scotland

We are currently seeking to recruit a Policy and resources officer to undertake policy and stakeholder engagement activity in Scotland, and provide office management and events coordination for ECU’s Scotland office in Edinburgh.

Based in Edinburgh, the role is 0.8 FTE with a salary of £29,696 pro rata per annum (pay award pending).

Join the team

Closing date: 12.00, Monday 20 June 2016.

Resources and support


Training resources on implementing the duty

The Leadership Foundation for Higher Education have been working closely with Universities UK, BIS and sector experts including ECU to produce new resources on implementing the Prevent Duty.

Comprising six modules, the materials include presentations, case studies, think pieces and guidance notes. Some of the modules are more generic and suitable for use by all staff, and others are more targeted and aimed at specific roles within institutions.

While these training materials have been designed to be delivered by institutional Prevent leads, the materials are also adaptable and can be used to fit the precise requirements of the institution. Module One, in particular, which is also provided as an e-module, is the must-read section of the series, as it thoroughly introduces all aspects of the Prevent Duty in an accessible way.

Materials cover areas including the implications for governing bodies and senior leaders, student and staff wellbeing and academic freedom and freedom of speech.

Register on the Safe Campus Communities website to download the resources.

Women in science

Video narratives

A new website explores the experiences of successful women in science at the University of Oxford, through a collection of video narratives.

Funded by the Vice Chancellor’s Diversity Fund, the interviews with 39 successful women tell an inspiring story of an ongoing culture shift for women working in science.

Themes covered include obtaining funding, career progression, mentorship, and taking parental leave.

Women in science


Share your events with us on Twitter:@EqualityinHE

Are we there yet? Improving lifelong and life wide learning journeys for disabled people

9 June 2016, Perth

Lead Scotland are hosting their fifth national conference, aiming to bring together a diverse range of partners from across the college, university, skills, health and community learning sectors to meet new and emerging challenges, develop important networks, showcase new technologies and share examples of effective strategies, partnerships and programmes to improve life long and life wide learning journeys for disabled people.

Are we there yet?

HERAG think tank 2016

20 June 2016, London

The Higher Education Race Action Group (HERAG) is made up of equality and diversity professionals, academics, students and other individuals interested in advancing race equality in higher education.

HERAG think tanks are an exciting way to progress the ambition of improving the progression and attainment of BME students and creating a clear career progression route for all BME staff.

The theme of the conference is creating inclusive learning and teaching is a function of the culture of the academic, the culture of the student and the culture of the institution.

HERAG think tank

Approaches to inequalities

22 June 2016, University of Northampton

The second bi-annual conference from University of Northampton focusing on responding to inequalities.

The conference has a progressive focus on how we address inequalities in all their forms and positive contributions that go beyond merely recognising the existence of inequalities are encouraged.

Approaches to inequalities

Closing the gap: research and practice on BME student attainment

27 June 2016, University of Kent, Canterbury Campus

A one-day conference hosted by the University of Kent Student Success (EDI) project to explore how to inspire, support and share excellent practice in closing the attainment gap between white and Black and minority ethnic students.

Keynote speakers include:

  • Professor Leon Tikly, University of Bristol
  • Professor Kalwant Bhopal, University of Southampton
  • Professor Les Ebdon, Director of Office for Fair Access

Closing the gap

Improving BME recruitment ‘pot luck’ event

11 July 2016, University College London

Are you bored of hearing or making the case for diversity? Are you interested in just discussing solutions? Then this event may be for you…

HERAG would like to invite colleagues from London and beyond to an innovative best practice sharing event where equality experts will have the opportunity to briefly showcase what they are doing to enhance BME recruitment and discuss and critique these ideas in a friendly setting.

The format: 5 minute informal presentation (no presentation slides) followed by brief questions and answers.

Email the equalities team at UCL with your name, job title, and details of your idea or initiative.

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.