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The scheme responds to the Equality Act 2010, which requires public bodies to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between people from different groups. The Act also extends the characteristics protected by law so that there are now nine protected groups: discrimination is now unlawful on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, disability, pregnancy and maternity, gender reassignment, race, religion and belief, marriage and civil partnership, and age.

Public bodies are also required to publish objectives and information explaining how they will meet this duty. For HEFCE, this applies both to our external policies and processes which affect the higher education sector, and to our role as an employer. We have identified challenges within these distinct roles, and set out aims and objectives to tackle them. Each objective leads to specific actions to be undertaken by HEFCE staff. These are published in our equality and diversity action plan, also available on our web-site.

HEFCE is also publishing a new web page giving easy access to information concerning all areas of equality and diversity.

The new scheme highlights equality concerns about the attainment of black and minority ethnic students, diversity in research careers, male female participation and the gender balance at different grades of HEFCE staff, among other issues. We want to do everything we can to make sure that our policies do not impact adversely on any particular groups of people and promote equal opportunity where we can.

A draft scheme was consulted on in May 2011 (HEFCE 2011/15).