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Inclusive responses for difficult times - minority and marginalised groups

23 Mar 2020 | Clare Pavitt As universities and colleges focus on reorganising services to respond to the current global health emergency, Principal Adviser for EDI at Advance HE, Clare Pavitt, introduces a series of blogs on what we can do to ensure that the diverse needs of all staff and students in higher education are considered.

Ensure arrangements are in place to support students and staff from minority and marginalised groups

Current government advice on restricting social interaction between people is likely to have a particular impact on students and staff from minority groups and may leave them more vulnerable to loneliness and isolation. For people who do not have extensive networks of social contacts on campus or in the local area, the impact of limiting contact with the social groups they do belong to may be particularly damaging.

Higher education institutions can consider:

  • working with student and staff networks to develop voluntary capacity to provide online and telephone support if appropriate

  • agreeing approaches to support with tutors and other academic staff with pastoral care responsibilities, and with line managers, that are sensitive to the circumstances/needs of all students and staff
  • working with organisations/groups in the local community to increase support for students, with a particular focus on support that can be delivered remotely

  • understanding the impact on financial wellbeing. Reviewing/increasing hardship support for students and staff who may experience financial problems (for example, due to loss of employment in bars, restaurants and retailers as well as in the university). If possible, increasing hardship funds and improving signposting to other support services. Considering the impact of changes in shopping habits (stock-piling, longer queues and waiting times) on disabled students and students with limited funds
  • reviewing arrangements for students and staff to disclose personal information which might impact upon the support they need during the pandemic. Current advice from the UK Government identifies people over 70, people with serious underlying health conditions and pregnant women as particularly vulnerable to infection: consider how to enable people in these groups to access support in a safe, confidential and appropriate way

  • considering how policy relating to extenuating or mitigating circumstances will take into account the wide range of disruptions (personal and procedural) relating to the pandemic. Where possible, put in measures for all students in relation to examinations, assessments, caring responsibilities etc. Remember that the Equality Act 2010 has particular expectations and protections relating to disabled students.


As the global health emergency progresses, the challenges that institutions face in meeting the needs of their diverse staff and student communities are likely to become more complex and the responses to those challenges more creative and resourceful.

Advance HE is committed to supporting the sector in these difficult times. Join the conversation on the EDI Practitioners Network on Advance HE Connect

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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