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Equality outcomes

Universities and colleges in Scotland have to publish equality outcomes explaining the focus and aims of their equality work.

A key legal requirement relating to equality for universities and colleges in Scotland is the publication and delivery of equality outcomes. Equality outcomes are strategic and express results institutions will achieve to improve people’s life chances over a four year period.

Universities and colleges in Scotland published a set of equality outcomes to meet the Scottish specific duties of the Equality Act 2010 public sector equality duty in April 2013. They reported on progress in 2015 and will publish a new set of outcomes by April 2017.

Equality outcomes should be embedded within outcome agreements set with the Scottish Funding Council, where an equality outcome will support the institution to meet outcome agreement aims. Read our guidance on this here.

New Guidance

Advance HE has developed new guidance to assist institutions in identifying and publishing new equality outcomes. It sets out a 3 stage process for setting outcomes, involving investigating equality issues, identifying the equality outcomes and disseminating the outcomes.

It contains guidance to help you review your previous outcomes to inform the new outcomes, prioritise the most pressing equality issues for your institution, align your outcomes with institutional and sector drivers, and ensure your outcomes meet all of the specific legal requirements.

Publishing Equality Outcomes

The specific duties require Scottish institutions to publish their equality outcomes in a manner that is accessible to the public. All HEIs and colleges published equality outcomes on their websites in 2013, and progress reports in 2015. Most were situated on dedicated equality and diversity pages or within a broader strategy and policy page.

To demonstrate that they have met all the specific duty requirements, Advance HE recommends that institutions publish:

  • the evidence used to set the outcomes
  • the involvement undertaken during setting the outcomes
  • how each outcome will help the institution meet one or more part of the PSED
  • which protected characteristics each outcome covers
  • how progress will be measured, eg indicators of success

Using evidence

Equality outcomes must be based on evidence of equality issues for staff, students and/or service users with protected characteristics. Internal and external evidence sources can be used, including both quantitative and qualitative information.

Case study: Using Evidence

In its 2013 equality outcomes, the University of Aberdeen used quantitative and qualitative evidence from a range of formal and anecdotal sources to inform each of its equality outcomes.

For its first outcome, ‘The principles of equality and diversity will be a day-to-day consideration within all of the university’s activities, both strategically and operationally’, this included:

  • discussions at meetings (mainstreaming equality team, college executive, advisory group on equality and diversity)
  • the staff equality and diversity questionnaire. Nearly 20% of respondents had no knowledge of the Equality Act 2010 and 25% had no knowledge of the equality and diversity webpages
  • ongoing discussions regarding the implementation of equality impact assessments and whether they are always undertaken at the appropriate point in policy development

Action plans

Although not a specific requirement of the duties, publishing action plans helped some institutions to demonstrate how they will implement, monitor and review their outcomes to enable reporting on progress.

Case Study: Action Plan

Glasgow Caledonian University 2013: Equality outcome 1 (culture):

‘The university has clear leadership on equality and diversity, supported by a strong infrastructure to support mainstreaming of equality and diversity and delivery of our equality outcomes.’

  • What are the actions required to achieve the outcome?

Refresh set of equality and diversity champions, and clarify role and responsibility so that there is visible leadership and presence across the schools and directorates

  • Who is the lead person responsible for delivery?

University Secretary

  • What is the timescale for delivery?

By September 2013

  • What are the measurements for achieving the outcome?

Remit developed and agreed, equality and diversity champions appointed

  • Which protected characteristic does the outcome relate to?


  • Which of the Equality Act 2010 general duties does this outcome support?

Foster good relations

  • Which of our strategic goals does this outcome support?

Valuing our people

Measuring success

ECU and the Equality and Human Rights Commission have advised that agreed methods or indicators to measure progress and success should be set, and ideally published, for each equality outcome.

In 2013, many institutions published these with their outcomes reportsand others have developed these along with action plans post publication.

Case Study: Measuring Success

In 2013, Dumfries and Galloway College developed an outcome around creating a positive workplace culture, which is representative of the diverse local community. They knew from their evidence gathering that they had large gaps in their data collection and needed to improve this.

They set a specific measure that employee information would be collected with an 80% response rate across all protected groups by 2015; 90% by 2016 and 100% response rate by 2017.

SFC outcome agreements

Equality should also be embedded in Scottish Funding Council outcome agreements. Doing so supports institutions to meet the legal duty to mainstream equality across all activities and functions.

Equality outcomes should be aligned with outcome agreements, and relevant outcomes embedded within the outcome agreement itself. SFC asks for this in its annual outcome agreement guidance.

Find out more in our section on SFC Outcome agreements.