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Overseeing EDI

The role of Governors in overseeing equality, diversity and inclusion.

Key Issues 

Institutions need to be compliant with the legal and regulatory requirements placed on it in relation to EDI. If an institution is found to be non-compliant, it will be exposed to reputational and financial risks.

Failure to comply with equality law may be investigated by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) or the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland (ECNI), and/or challenged by individuals affected in a court of law. 

Unlawful discrimination and inequalities are likely to impact on staff and campus relations, undermine the recruitment of talented staff and students, lead to negative media, and have a pervasive and negative impact on an institution’s reputation.

Seeking assurance

To ensure compliance, governors need to seek assurances from the executive that the institution is delivering on its legal duties and regulatory requirements. As a governor you should expect to receive regular reports to confirm this is the case.

Is your institution compliant?

  • How frequently does the governing body or one of its committees discuss EDI, and review the institution’s policies and practices?
  • Does the governing body or its committees regularly receive reports providing assurance that the institution is meeting its legal and regulatory requirements for EDI?

Legal requirements

In Great Britain, there is a mandatory legal framework for equality, comprising the Equality Act 2010 and accompanying specific duties for each nation. HEIs must fulfil the requirements set out by this framework. 

In Northern Ireland, anti-discrimination legislation is devolved and there are a number of pieces of anti-discrimination law. In particular, HEIs have to comply with section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998, the Equal Pay Act (Northern Ireland) 1970, Sex Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 1976, Disability Discrimination (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 and the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order 1997.

The governing body of the institution is listed as accountable for compliance within the legislation, therefore as a governor, you need to be able to satisfy yourself that the institution is taking appropriate action to meet the legislation, and that this action is proving effective.

Additional information

The Equality Act 2010

The Equality Act 2010 is the main piece of anti-discrimination legislation in Great Britain.
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Governance codes and EDI

The higher education codes of governance highlight the requirement for governing bodies to oversee EDI at their institutions.
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Processes of overseeing EDI

Mechanisms to oversee institutional progress and gain assurance.
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Championing EDI

Governors often play an important role in championing EDI in an institution.
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Find out more about governance and EDI 

Governance and EDI