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Key leadership and diversity projects

Our leadership and diversity projects cover a number of equality areas: diversity, race, age and statistics.

Disability equality

Enabling equality; Furthering disability equality for staff in higher education

This project, funded by ECU and the LF, explored the experiences of disabled staff in higher education. The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) and De Montfort University, who carried out the research, identified 10 key themes including that:

  • There was good practice in some HEIs
  • There was a lack of consistency in the way disabled staff were treated within and between institutions
  • Disabled students tended to receive better support than disabled staff
  • Many staff found it difficult to declare an impairments, particularly if they had mental health impairments
  • There was variability in the extent to which people received reasonable adjustments.

Many practical actions are set out in the report organised around the key themes. These include avoiding fostering a negative culture for disabled people that may inhibit access to support and/or reasonable adjustments and adopting a proactive approach to providing reasonable adjustments. The views of disabled people should be sought regarding the institution’s strengths and weakness and how it can best support them.

Download the report

Race equality

A Self-Assessment and Improvement Tool to Support Equality and Diversity Strategies

This toolkit, that developed from the Leading Culturally Diverse Communities in Higher Education research project jointly funded by the University of Salford and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, is now available on our website at The Self Assessment Toolkit

The project led by Professor Ghassan Aouad, Pro Vice-Chancellor and researcher Dr Lilian Madubuko sought to find out how higher education institutions can develop appropriate policies and cultures to successfully engage with culturally diverse communities both internally and externally. It examined the roles, responsibilities and expectations of those in formal leadership positions at different levels of the institution using a variety of data collection methods including interviews and workshops.

The aims of the project included seeking to understand how the positive aspects of culturally diverse higher education institutions can be maximized and to develop a tool with which institutions can analyse their current position with regard to engaging with diverse communities.

Student attainment gap

Greenwich conference July 2011

A conference to address the BME student learning experience was held at the University of Greenwich on 4 July 2011. This looked at initiatives and approaches to raising the degree attainment of minority ethnic students and how systematic barriers to change could be addressed. Presentations from the conference are available.

The work presented at the conference arose from research showing that even after controlling for the majority of contributory factors, being from a minority ethnic group had a statistically significant effect on degree attainment. This prompted a study funded by ECU and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) looking at causal factors behind this trend. The original research is available

Read the report

NUS report 2011

The NUS published a report on the experiences of Black students in further and higher education.

The research on which the report is based included a literature review, an online survey of 938 Black students and three focus groups. The study focused on the academic experiences of the students and aimed to shed light on why Black students tend to be less satisfied with their educational experience and generally attain a lower class of degree than their White peers.

The findings indicated that there was no single reason for the attainment and satisfaction gap yet the research did identify common concerns amongst the students that had been overlooked by institutions. The report’s recommendations include the need for institutions to examine institutional barriers to the achievement of students, to develop students’ trust and to invest in their progress and achievement.

Age Equality

Managing Age Diversity

The report from the project ‘Managing flexible retirement and extended working lives’ is available along with some case studies.

Funded by Hefce and led by Dr Simonetta Manfredi, Director, Centre for Diversity Policy Research and Practice at Oxford Brookes University, the study arose due to the phasing out of the default retirement age of 65. Its aim is to support higher education in dealing with the challenges and opportunities created by this. It builds on earlier research carried out by the Oxford Brookes team on managing age diversity in higher education, a main aim of which was to explore the implications of the Employment (Age) Regulations 2006 for human resources managers in the sector. The research report is available.

See also Manfredi, S.and Vickers, L. (2009) Retirement and Age: Managing Retirement in Higher Education, Industrial law Journal, Vol.38. No. 4.

Equality statistics

Equality data and senior staff

In 2010 the Leadership Foundation convened a meeting with stakeholders to consider how the sector could address the lack of demographic statistics on senior staff in higher education. 

As a result of the meeting, the Leadership Foundation and ECU submitted a paper to HESA making the case for improved data on senior staff. HESA undertook a review of the Staff Record and proposed a number of updates including how it records equality information. HESA made a number of proposals relevant to equality including:

  • Improving the collection of data on senior staff using grading structures used by UCEA in its salary surveys (pending permission from UCEA and its commercial partners)
  • Changes to the staff record relating to the new legislative requirements and to the recent census. These include: a new coding frame for ethnicity, an updated coding frame for sex, guidance on the question to be asked about disability and new fields for religion and belief, sexual orientation, gender reassignment and pregnancy and maternity.