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Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference (2020)

Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: Creative thinking in tackling inequality This conference will bring together the annual Advance HE EDI conference with the biannual Scottish conference with the theme – Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: creative thinking in tackling inequality.

COVID-19 update

In light of the current global COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak we have had to postpone this conference until 16 - 18 March 2021. You can view details of the current status of all our upcoming conferences, events and programmes here. You can also view our coronavirus (COVID-19) updates page for the latest information and advice.

Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: Creative thinking in tackling inequality - Supported by the Scottish Funding Council.

The theme of this conference speaks to the reality of EDI work in both HE and FE - a growing focus for attention internally and externally, ambitious, analytical, forward-looking, practical and increasingly complex. As EDI becomes more embedded in institutional values and strategy and becomes more of a measure for the student experience, institutional interest in creative responses to tackling inequality is growing.

Whether focusing on newly emerging issues or dealing with those that are stubbornly persistent, as a sector we can seek inspiration, insight and guidance to navigate the EDI landscape through sharing learning and advancing evidence-based good practice. Learning from both inside and outside the HE/FE sector can stimulate new ideas and innovative approaches to tackling systemic inequalities.

With institutions taking increasingly intersectional approaches to equality work, aspects of inequality once hidden and silenced are emerging in colleges and universities. Once considered taboo, issues such as gender-based violence, decolonisation, the menopause, and privilege, are now emerging areas of discussion and innovation. Creating space for once unspeakable conversations will increase capacity in the sector to examine the experiences of people who may be left behind in traditional approaches to equality and address emerging practical challenges. By linking policy and practice, this conference can facilitate a refreshed perspective to support the sector’s ambitious equality aims.

Date: 16-18 March 2021
Venue: Edinburgh
Who: All higher education professionals including colleagues from Scottish colleges.

Scottish Institutions 

Following feedback from Scottish colleges and universities we have made some changes to the allocation of Scottish Funding Council funded places at our EDI Conference 2020. These changes will ensure more Scottish colleagues can attend Day 1 (Tuesday 17 March 2020) of the conference which has an additional focus on using positive action to advance equality in Scottish colleges and universities.

Find out more about Scottish places

Conference themes

The theme Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: Creative thinking in tackling inequality will cover the following sub-themes:

Day 1 (Scotland focus)

Breaking the taboo: Addressing hidden and stigmatised areas of inequality confidently and effectively

• Sexual harassment in the workplace and tackling gender-based violence.
• Aging population of the workforce.
• Race equality, whiteness, privilege and power.
• ‘Hidden’ gender issues (for example: infertility, miscarriage, maternity/paternity/shared parental leave, breastfeeding/expressing support, menopause, gender and age discrimination etc.).

Leading the change: Embedding strategic approaches to equality in colleges and higher education institutions

• Mainstreaming equality – embedding a whole-institution approach through cultural and systemic change.
• Diversity in governance – moving beyond gender balance.
• Equality impact assessments – developing a strategic approach to effective and proportionate equality activity.

Positive action: Addressing underrepresentation and inequality through targeted initiatives

• Being brave with positive action.
• Intersectional approaches to advance equality in student access.
• Increasing recruitment of disabled staff.
• Positive action in the promotion process.

Days 2 and 3

EDI and leadership

• Inclusive leadership that really makes a difference.
• Genuine distributed leadership approaches for hierarchical environments.
• Strengths-based/neuroscience approaches to managing inclusively.
• Room at the top/related to top leadership.
• The role of governance in EDI.

Belonging and safe space

• No right not to be offended? – navigating the tensions between protection from harm and freedom of expression.
• Supporting staff and students through hidden challenges (i.e. Infertility, miscarriage, infant loss, bereavement, menopause etc.).
• Rethinking the curriculum (decolonise not ‘diversify’).

Bridging the gaps

• Creative approaches to pay gaps.
• Sponsorship/mentoring/reverse mentoring: creating the environment that supports the progression of marginalised groups.
• Increasing provision and uptake of shared parental caring, paternity leave, flexible working.

Thinking forward: Effective management of EDI in a changing environment

• EDI in the global arena: partnerships, international campuses.
• Ambitious benchmarking/demonstrating impact.
• Innovative HR practices for recruiting, developing, valuing and rewarding approaches that value EDI.
• Crisis or opportunity  – building reputation and dealing with critical incidents in the digital age.

Skills building for EDI change agents

• Responding to majority privilege – fragility, ownership and allyship.
• When speaking becomes doing – what makes EDI work effective in creating positive and sustainable culture change?
• Intersectionality in action – reflecting the lived experiences of staff and students facing multiple disadvantage in EDI work.
• The power of storytelling: the personal narrative as a tool for change.

Why you should be there

Advance HE has acted as a nexus for thought leadership and research into EDI policy and practice in HE and FE. The underpinning evidence base has been built up by and for the sector and is used to inform the work of policymakers and practitioners. With an ever-growing global community of member institutions and a portfolio of thematic communities with global membership, this conference seeks to promote the learning between individuals with a passion for transforming EDI activity in the sector to achieve real change.

Through forecasting emerging EDI topics and priorities in the sector, the conference will create space for reflection and capacity-building through exploring two sub-themes: ‘courageous conversations’ and ‘adventurous approaches’. It will dig deep to explore hidden and emerging EDI issues, and highlight the best examples of creative, courageous interventions that are contributing to change as well as:

  • creating space to engage with previously less-explored, hidden or ‘taboo’ equality issues and examine/encourage promising practice to address them.
  • increasing knowledge and confidence in the college and HE sectors to undertake positive action initiatives to tackle inequality and underrepresentation across student bodies, workforce and governance.
  • improving institutional capacity to make progress on EDI in an increasingly complex environment.
  • engaging with leaders and influencers to foster dialogue on embedding a strategic approach to equality in colleges and higher education institutions.

Statement of Respect and Wellbeing

EDI Conference 2020

Statement of Respect and Wellbeing



Richard Lochhead MSP

Richard was first elected as a North East MSP in 1999 before winning the Moray by-election in 2006. He was Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and the Environment in the Scottish Government between 2007 and 2016.  He was appointed Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science in September 2018.

Richard was born in Paisley in 1969 and was educated at Williamwood High School, Clarkston, Glasgow. He graduated with BA Honours in Political Studies from Stirling University.

Richard’s first employment was with the South of Scotland Electricity Board and prior to his election to Holyrood worked for Dundee City Council. He was also employed as constituency office manager for Alex Salmond from 1994 to 1998.

Richard is married with two sons and lives near Elgin.

Richard Lochhead

Keynote speakers: Day 1

Professor Peter Mathieson

Professor Peter Mathieson MBBS(Hons)(London), PhD(Cambridge), FRCP(London), FMedSci assumed the office of Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh in February 2018. He was formerly the 15th President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong. 

Previous posts include: foundation Professor of Renal Medicine at the University of Bristol, Honorary Consultant Nephrologist, North Bristol NHS Trust, Head of the University Department of Clinical Science at North Bristol, Director of Research & Development for the North Bristol NHS Trust, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Bristol.  

Professor Peter Mathieson

Jackie Galbraith

Jackie Galbraith joined West Lothian College as principal in 2018 after five years as a vice principal at Ayrshire College.

Prior to that, Jackie worked for ten years in government, in the main as an adviser to a succession of Scottish Government Education ministers and two years working for the UK Government’s Secretary of State for Scotland.

She began her career in various tech roles in the manufacturing sector, after which she was a university lecturer and then executive director at a national organisation responsible for promoting the use of technology in learning.

Jackie’s lifelong passion for social justice and her experience as a woman in technology have contributed to her commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. She strives to lead by example, setting herself high standards and expecting the same of those she works and collaborates with.

Jackie Galbraith

Keynote speaker: Day 2

Rachel Sandby-Thomas CB 

Rachel joined the University of Warwick as Registrar in September 2016 and is responsible for the professional services of the University under the direction of the Vice-Chancellor. Rachel chairs the University’s fundraising trusts in Singapore and South Africa, and is a member of the Friends groups established in the USA and in Hong Kong. Rachel also plays an active role in the development of the international partnerships for the University and serves on various Boards.

Prior to this, Rachel was shadow CEO of the UK Government’s Institute for Apprenticeships (“IfA”). This followed eight years of being a Director General in the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills where she held a number of roles in legal, corporate services and policy (skills, regulation, large and small businesses and local government).

Before becoming a Director General, Rachel had held a variety of posts in the Government Legal Service in a number of departments (HM Treasury; Cabinet Office; Attorney General’s Office; the Medicines, Healthcare and Regulatory Products Agency; Department of Trade and Industry and HM Revenue and Customs). She joined the Government Legal Service from City firm Linklaters where she qualified as a solicitor.

Rachel graduated from St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge with a double first class honours in Law.

She is on the Executive Board of AHUA, the network body for HE Registrars, sits on AHUA’s Training and Development Committee and is a trustee of Ambitious Futures, which recruits graduate trainees into HE Professional Services. She is a member of the Childcare and Education Panel of the IfA and is governor of both the Warwick College Group and the Royal Society of Arts Academies.

She is Vice Chair of LEAP Confronting Conflict, a charity helping young people handle conflict positively, and ‘Future-Fit’, a social enterprise helping organisations to be sustainable. She is a Companion of the CMI and sits on the Board of Companions. She is a Freeman of both the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and the City of London.

She was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 2012, named as one of the 2016 FTSE 100 “Women to Watch” and The Times 100 “Most Influential Lawyers”, 2012.


Keynote speaker: Day 3

Professor Nishan Canagarajah

Nishan was born and educated in Sri Lanka, before moving to the UK where he received his BA (Hons) and PhD degrees from the University of Cambridge in 1989 and 1993. He joined the University of Leicester from the University of Bristol where he was Pro Vice-Chancellor with responsibility for research and enterprise.

He had been a member of staff at Bristol throughout his academic career since taking up a post as a research assistant in 1993. Nishan worked his way through the academic ranks, serving as the Faculty of Engineering Research Director, Head of Department of Computer Science, Head of Merchant Venturers School of Engineering and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering.

He became Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise in August 2014, establishing two cross disciplinary research institutes to address societal issues and worked to establish a key partnership with the Alan Turing Institute.

Nishan is internationally recognised for his engineering research on signal processing and texture classification. He served on national and international research funding, governance and postgraduate education panels as well as acting as a technical consultant for Sony, BT, BBC, Orange, Thales, Toshiba and the Met Police.

As University of Bristol lead for equality, diversity and inclusion, Nishan championed a diverse and welcoming University community that reflected his role as one of the Bristol Race Equality Commissioners and position on the Governing Board of the Bristol City Funds.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah

Panel speakers

Paul Weller

Panel: Harassment, bullying and hate crime - Day 2

Paul Weller (Cert Ed, MA, MPhil, PhD, DLitt) is part-time Professor, Centre Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University, where he is part of the team working on the Office for Students Project: "Tackling Religion-Based Hate Crime on the Multi-Faith Campus", some results of which he will be presenting. He is also Emeritus Professor of the University of Derby in the Centre for Social, Cultural and Legal Studies, and Research Fellow in Religion and Society at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, where he is an Associate Member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion. His research focuses mainly on matters of freedom of religion or belief, discrimination, equality and human rights. Together with Tristram Hooley and Nicki Moore he was lead academic and co-author of the 2011 report for the former Equality Challenge Unit on Religion and Belief in Higher Education: The Experiences of Staff and Students.

Paul Weller

Leah Burch

Panel: Harassment, bullying and hate crime - Day 2

Leah Burch is a PhD candidate in the School of Sociology & Social Policy at the University of Leeds. Her research considers understandings and experiences of disabilist hate crime, particularly in relation to the ‘everyday lives’ of disabled people. This research aims to raise awareness of the strategies of resistance developed by disabled people to manage these experiences, and consider different approaches to engaging public awareness with this topic. Her previous research has focused on online disablist hate speech and special educational needs policy. These works have been published in Disability & Society, and The Journal of Education Policy. 

Leah Burch

Question Time panelists

Gary Loke

Question Time host

Gary is Director of Knowledge, Innovation and Delivery at Advance HE where he is responsible for leading on research, thought leadership and content delivery. Prior to his current role, Gary was Deputy Chief Executive at Equality Challenge Unit where he led on numerous projects, including joint guidance with the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Universities UK on the intersection of equality legislation and the Prevent duty.

Gary Loke

Professor Rowena Arshad CBE

Professor Rowena Arshad CBE, FEIS was until recently Head of Moray House School of Education and Sport at the University of Edinburgh. She currently convenes the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. Her research and teaching has been in the area of ‘race’ – largely looking at how institutions, policies and practice can better achieve race equality and the challenging of racism in its various forms.

She currently chairs a Scottish Government group looking at how to diversify Scotland's teaching profession. Her latest co-edited book with colleagues Terry Wrigely and Lynne Pratt - ‘Social Justice – Re-examined’ is aimed at student teachers and looks at a range of equality issues from race, class, gender, disability to issues of learning for sustainability.  She is also a co-Director of the Centre for Education for Racial Equality in Scotland (CERES).

Rowena Arshad

Emma Ritch

Emma Ritch is Executive Director of Engender, which is Scotland’s feminist policy organisation working on women’s social, economic, and political equality in Scotland. Emma leads Engender’s strategic collaboration with colleagues in the women’s, equalities, and human rights sectors, and engagement with Scottish and UK Government, the UN, and the EU through the European Women’s Lobby. 

Prior to this she was manager of Close the Gap for nine years, and worked extensively on women’s labour market participation. Emma sits on a range of external working groups including the joint strategic board of Equally Safe, the Scottish National Action Plan for human rights leadership forum, the advisory group of the Scottish Women’s Rights Centre and the Scottish Women’s Budget Group. She chairs the Rape Crisis Scotland board, is vice-convener of the board of Close the Gap, and is a member of the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls.

Emma Ritch

Robiu Salisu

Robiu Salisu is an experienced Higher Education practitioner with several years of experience in student engagement. Robiu has sat on the University’s Equality Committee promoting the inclusivity of students and staff. In 2015, Robiu compiled a report on students’ perspective on tackling the attainment gap at Swansea University. The report was published by Equality Challenge Unit - Equality and diversity in learning and teaching in HE: compendium of papers - and he delivered a keynote presentation on the paper at their 2015 annual conference held in Edinburgh and he is delighted to be back five years later to join the panel and reflect on his experience working on BAME student experience in Wales and England. 

As the student inclusion officer responsible for improving Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) Undergraduate Students’ experiences at the University of Bristol, Robiu provides institutional guidance on matters relating to the experience and inclusion of BAME students for staff and students. Robiu was awarded the University of Bristol Staff Member of the Year award for all of his work in supporting BAME students at the University at the 2019 Bristol Students’ Union Awards.

Robiu Salisu

Naira Dar 

Naira Dar is the Equality Diversity and Inclusion Manager at the City of Glasgow. 

Naira is the Chair of the Scottish Minority Ethnic Women’s Network. she has presented her work at a number of conferences both in the UK and across Europe and was one of the founders of the academic network, The South Asian Social Research Forum which ran for over 10 years. As a Research Fellow at Stirling University her work focused on race, heath and housing. She has experience in research, training and development and has worked across strategic and operational management. Naira has worked across the Public Sector, the Voluntary Sector and both in Higher Education and the College sector. 

Naira Dar

Co-creation session 

Ivana Vasic Chalmers

Ivana Vasic Chalmers is an equality, diversity and inclusion researcher and advocate. Recently appointed as the Head of Research for the Women’s Higher Education Network [WHEN], over the past decade Ivana has published her research on the subject in a number of academic journals, books and professional and online press. 

Since 2015 Ivana has lead on strategy, risk management and governance at the Royal Veterinary College, where she project managed a Bronze Athena SWAN award, is a steering group member of the Higher Education Risk Manager Network and an Aurora alumna.

With sponsorship from the Financial Times and the 30% Club, Ivana completed her MBA at Henley Business School in 2019 – using her dissertation to explore the value of external consultants to organisational equality, diversity and inclusion efforts. She has since provided pro-bono Research and Development support for an entrepreneurship venture tackling the motherhood career penalty. Previously, Ivana has worked in the UK, Middle East and South Africa in a number of roles in corporate communications and higher education. 

Ivana Vasic-Chalmers

Jess Moody

As a Senior Adviser at Advance HE, Jess focusses on inclusion for staff and students.  Currently working with universities with their inclusive curricula development, she also supports institutions in their work on tackling inequality in access and participation (including awarding and experience ‘gaps’, and safeguarding). 

Recent publications include  ‘what works’ for EDI in international research, findings of a programme to explore targeted action in student recruitment, and sector guidance on religious inclusion in higher education. Jess helps members to navigate national regulation and policy relating to equality and inclusion. She focusses on approaches which consider intersectionality, the ethical use of equality data, and long term cultural change.

Jess has over 15 years’ experience in higher education, working with Equality Challenge Unit, various higher education institutions and working groups.  She studied Law at the University of Oxford, and holds an MA in Gender, Sexuality & Culture from Birkbeck, University of London. 

Jess Moody

Conference structure

The conference will run across three days with delegates welcome to attend the full three days or choose from individual days and evening events.

  • Tuesday 17 March 10am-5pm: Day 1: With a particular Scottish contextual focus relevant for both HEIs and Colleges in Scotland but also of interest for all UK participants to share learning and practice across all nations.
  • Tuesday 17 March 6.30pm onwards: Dinner and Question Time with speakers for senior leaders in Scottish colleges and universities.
  • Wednesday 18 March 10am-5pm: Day 2: Broad perspective for all those engaged in UK higher education and also Scottish colleges.
  • Wednesday 18 March 6.30pm onwards: Reception and dinner for all delegates with evening speakers.
  • Thursday 19 March 10am-4pm: Day 3: Broad perspective for all those engaged in UK higher education and also Scottish colleges.

Conference programme

EDI 2020 Programme - Day 1
EDI Conference 2020

Conference Programme - Day One

EDI 2020 Programme - Day 2
EDI Conference 2020

Conference Programme - Day Two

EDI Programme - Day 3
EDI Conference 2020

Conference Programme - Day Three

EDI - Accessible Programe - Day 1 - 3
EDI Conference 2020

Accessible Programme - Day 1 - 3


Session abstracts

EDI Conference - Day 1 - Abstracts
EDI Conference 2020

Session abstracts - Day 1

EDI Conference - day 2 abstracts
EDI Conference 2020

Session abstracts - Day 2

EDI Conference abstracts - day 3
EDI Conference 2020

Session abstracts - Day 3


Poster sessions

EDI Conference - Poster abstracts
EDI Conference 2020

Poster abstracts

EDI Programme - Posters
EDI Conference 2020

Poster presentations


Scottish Institutions 

Following feedback from Scottish colleges and universities we have made some changes to the allocation of Scottish Funding Council funded places at our EDI Conference 2020. These changes will ensure more Scottish colleagues can attend Day 1 (Tuesday 17 March 2020) of the conference which is tailored for a Scottish context. This brings our 2020 conference offer to the sector in line with previous Scottish EDI conferences. 

  • Scottish colleges and universities are now entitled to three one-day FREE places for Tuesday 17 March 2020
  • Presenters from Scottish institutions will receive a FREE place (included in their institutional allocation of three funded places)

Please note this does not include the conference dinner which can be booked separately. 

Bookings can be made directly online and must be made before 6 March. Bookings made over your institution’s three free place entitlement may be charged at the standard rate. If you have any questions about booking free places or for more information please contact

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Presenter guidance

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Presenter guidance


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