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Contents

  • Foreword
  • Executive summary
  • Section 1 HEFCE's role in promoting equality and diversity
  • Section 2 Equality and diversity challenges for HEFCE and the higher education sector
  • Section 3 Determining the effects of our policies
  • Annexes
    • Annex A Summary of consultation questions
    • Annex B Abbreviations and glossary
    • Annex C HEFCE's equality and diversity steering group
    • Annex D Key challenges and achievements for the sector and HEFCE
    • Annex E Pre-consultation on the Equality Scheme

Foreword

I am delighted to present this new version of HEFCE's Equality Scheme for consultation.

This updates our previous Equality Scheme. In drafting this document we are of course responding to the latest changes in legislation in equality and diversity, notably the Equality Act 2010. However, the updated scheme is also timely in allowing us to demonstrate our continued commitment to equality and diversity at a time of considerable change, in particular the response to the fiscal deficit and changes to student funding. It is vital that higher education is open and accessible to all. Indeed commitment to this should be strengthened throughout the transition period and beyond. This not only fulfils both moral and legal obligations but provides distinct and demonstrable benefits to society and the economy.

In this scheme, we demonstrate that equality and diversity are central to everything we do, at all levels of our organisation. We also aim to support the sector in maintaining equality and diversity, through working with key partners such as the Equality Challenge Unit and the Higher Education Statistics Agency. These bodies work together to provide resources and information that help institutions share good practice and address equality and diversity challenges.

Responses to this consultation will enable us to ensure that we have properly understood the continuing equality and diversity issues that we face and have identified the correct priorities for action. I would like to thank all respondents in advance for helping us in this important work.

Sir Alan Langlands
Chief Executive


Executive summary

Purpose

1. This document explains how we plan to meet our statutory duties to promote equality and diversity. It presents a draft equality scheme and sets out proposed activities to address these issues.

Key points

2. This is an open consultation and we welcome views from anyone with an interest in equality and diversity in higher education.

3. The HEFCE Equality Scheme will create a roadmap to help HEFCE meet its statutory duties under the Equality Act 2010.

4. This draft outlines our aims and objectives, together with the activities we plan to undertake to address equality and diversity challenges in HEFCE and in the higher education sector. We would like the input of our staff and stakeholders to ensure that the scheme is appropriate. Consultation questions are presented in the text, and collated at Annex A.

5. Responses will feed into our final scheme, to be published in late 2011.

6. The Equality Act 2010 requires all public bodies (including HEFCE and higher and further education institutions) to meet a 'general duty':

  • to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
  • to advance equality of opportunity between people who do and do not share a protected characteristic
  • to foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not share a protected characteristic.

7. The protected characteristics (some of which are newly protected in the 2010 Act) are:

  • race
  • disability
  • gender and gender reassignment
  • age
  • sexual orientation
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • religion or belief.

8. In addition to the protected characteristics HEFCE has an interest in promoting equality between different socio-economic groups.

9. The Equality Act 2010 requires HEFCE to have due regard to the three aims in paragraph 6 throughout all of its functions, for all of the protected characteristics. This is supported by 'specific duties', which will come into force in July 2011.

10. Many of HEFCE's existing processes comply with the general duty and specific duties, and we will refine them to cover all protected characteristics, taking into account recently published guidance.

11. We have identified the following equality and diversity objectives:

  1. Address inequalities in research careers.
  2. Work with the higher education sector to address lower degree attainment by black and minority ethnic groups.
  3. Support the development and promotion of religious literacy on campus.
  4. Ensure that our own strategic committees are able, through their membership and activities, to understand the needs and perspectives of protected groups and address equality and diversity issues throughout their activities.
  5. Improve equality and diversity in our own workforce.

12. These objectives are explained more fully in paragraph 46. We will deliver these objectives by:

  • publishing information regarding our equality performance
  • analysing the effects of our policies on equality and diversity
  • engaging with our staff, stakeholders and experts on equality and diversity.

Action required

13. Please respond to this consultation by Friday 29 July 2011 using the online form.

14. Note that responses to this consultation may be disclosed on request, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act. The Act gives a public right of access to any information held by a public authority, in this case HEFCE. This includes information provided in response to a consultation. We have a responsibility to decide whether any responses, including information about your identity, should be made public or treated as confidential. We can refuse to disclose information only in exceptional circumstances. This means responses to this consultation are unlikely to be treated as confidential except in very particular circumstances. Further information about the Act is available at www.ico.gov.uk.

Alternative formats

15. This document is available on the web for free download, in Word and PDF format.

16. If you need the document in another format, such as large print or CD, please call Kathryn Mills on 0117 931 7035 or e-mail publications@hefce.ac.uk.

Date: 1 May 2011

Ref: HEFCE 2011/15

Of interest to those
responsible for:

Equality and diversity interest groups (national groups, internal institutional groups etc)
HEFCE related bodies
Staff responsible for equality and diversity
Student union officers and student representatives
Institutional representative bodies in England
Professional, statutory and regulatory bodies

Enquiries should be directed to:

Emma Creasey, tel 0117 931 7316, e-mail e.creasey@hefce.ac.uk