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Equality in higher education: statistical reports 2021

28 Oct 2021 | Advance HE 'Highlighting opportunities and challenges regarding the promotion of Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in UK Higher Education (HE)'

Today marks the launch of our 2021 equality statistical reports, covering staff and student data for the academic year 2019/20.

This is the 14th year that Advance HE has published national staff and student equality data (formerly published by the Equality Challenge Unit since 2003/04) to highlight opportunities and challenges regarding the promotion of Equality Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in UK Higher Education (HE).

The two reports present a snapshot of the age, disability, ethnicity and gender make-up of staff and students, as well as a range of intersectional data to show how various identity characteristics interact in producing differential outcomes (e.g. staff pay gaps by ethnicity and gender and student graduate outcomes by ethnicity and gender). The reports also include high-level data on institutional return rates for data on sexual orientation, trans status and religion and belief, as well as students’ social background.

    Access the Equality in higher education reports, data and infographics for 2021

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    Equality in higher education: statistical reports 2021 - headline findings :
     

    Staff

    • Disability: The proportion of staff disclosing as disabled has nearly doubled within the last decade (from 3.2% in 2010/11 to 5.5% in 2019/20).
    Staff disclose as diabled
    • Ethnicity: Staff working in UK HE have increasingly become more ethnically diverse. Between 2003/04 and 2019/20, the proportion of white staff has decreased from 91.4% to 84.6%, while the proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff members has nearly doubled (from 8.6% to 15.4%). In terms of how the latest figures relate to those of UK residents, we can draw some comparisons with the latest data available from the 2011 census for England and Wales. However, these comparisons are not perfect, as the census does not capture data from Scotland and Northern Ireland, whereas the HESA UK HE staff dataset includes data from all four British nations. Despite this caveat, the comparison shows that the current UK HE staff ethnic representation (84.6% white and 15.4% Black, Asian and minority ethnic) closely matches that of the English and Welsh population (86% white residents and 14% Black, Asian and minority ethnic residents) overall. However, this is not true for all the minority ethnic backgrounds. For example, Black HE staff members are underrepresented compared with the proportion of Black population recorded in the Census (2.8% of the total staff of UK HE are Black compared with 3.3% of the total population).

      In general, inequalities persist among white and Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff members in UK HE, with lower proportions of Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff than white staff on open-ended/permanent contracts, in senior management positions, in professorial roles and on higher salary bands. Looking at academic staff only, in 2019/20 the proportion of Black, Asian and minority ethnic academics was 18.0% of the total compared with 82.0% of academics who were white. In terms of professorial roles, in 2019/20, the share of white academics was nearly double that of Black, Asian and minority ethnic academics (11.2% compared with 6.2%). However, breaking down the Black, Asian and minority ethnic category into more specific groups reveals notable differences. For example, while 4.3% of all UK HE professors are Asian, only 0.7% are Black.

    Profs by ethnic group
    • Gender: The percentage of women academic staff has risen by almost 7 percentage points since 2003/4 (from 40.0% to 46.7%), although women still form the minority. Women also remain underrepresented in SET subject areas, in senior management and professorial roles.
       
    • Sexual orientation: Between 2018/19 and 2019/20, there was a marked drop in institutional return rates of staff sexual orientation data (from 78.7% to 58.1%).
       

    Students

    • Disability: The proportion of students disclosing as disabled has nearly doubled within the last decade (from 8.0% in 2011/12 to 14.6% in 2019/20).
    students disclose as disabled
    • Ethnicity: Between 2018/19 and 2019/20, there was the largest decrease in the degree awarding gap ever recorded – although a clear gap still remains.
    Student attainment
    • Gender: Women still form the majority among first degree undergraduate students (56.1%), but remain the minority in postgraduate research students, although their share has slightly increased within the last year (from 48.9% to 49.5%).
    Pipeline by gender
    • Trans status: The proportion of institutions that returned student trans status data to HESA has increased since last year (from 81.0% to 84.1%) and the proportion of students disclosing as trans has doubled (from 0.6% to 1.1% of the total student population).

    Jonathan Neves, Advance HE Head of Business Intelligence & Surveys, said, "Both challenges and opportunities arise from the 2019/20 data, like the substantial decrease in the ethnicity awarding gap within the last year, but also a marked drop in institutional return rates of staff sexual orientation data.

    "We publish these reports with a view to assist the wider sector as well as each institution to recognise what progress has been made, but also how much work there is still left to do to make UK HE a level-playing field for all staff and students. Thus, rather than a mere overview of how things are in 2021, we urge our readers to view these reports as an evidence-based platform for reflection and action towards our common goal of making HE the best it can be."

    The insights event 'Enabling equality: Furthering disability equality for staff and students in HE' on 25 November will draw on findings from the Advance HE report on disabled staff (2011) and the latest Advance HE Equality in Higher Education Statistical reports (2021) to review how the landscape has changed over the past decade for disabled staff and students in higher education. Book your place.

    We feel it is important for voices to be heard to stimulate debate and share good practice. Blogs on our website are the views of the author and don’t necessarily represent those of Advance HE.

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