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How we operate – Equality and diversity

Widening access – equality and diversity

The Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) have come together to identify the most persistent inequalities in Scotland’s colleges and universities and to pave the way for their removal.

The joint report, published today, is the first time national equality outcomes have been agreed in partnership between a sector body and Britain’s equality regulator.

Equality outcomes are results that public bodies should aim to achieve to address inequality and discrimination and improve people’s life chances. The outcomes set out in the report target improvements to the retention, representation and success of students and staff with a range of protected characteristics, as well as the procedures, services and support that colleges and universities should offer them to address any discrimination and disadvantage.

The Scottish Funding Council and the EHRC will support Scotland’s colleges and universities to meet their responsibilities under the Public Sector Equality Duty, which provides the legal framework to make these changes happen.

In developing national equality outcomes for tertiary education, the partners involved equality experts from colleges and universities and sought advice from charities and people with real-life experiences of the effects of inequality.

Both SFC and the EHRC are keen to recognise the work already being done by colleges and universities, as well as some student associations. Today’s report will develop and support a collective response to eliminating inequalities in the sector, while helping foster good relations and identify chances to advance equality of opportunity.

Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said:

“Equality, diversity and inclusion are central to SFC’s mission and values. We know that participation and success rates for students studying at college or university differ for students who share different protected characteristics.

“We will work with the sector and the EHRC to address persistent inequalities. The joint report we are publishing today incorporates the views of experts in tertiary education and beyond and sets out the hardest barriers to equality we are seeking to overcome, and what students should expect in terms of fairer opportunities and outcomes for the future.”

Marcial Boo, Chief Executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said:

“Too many people still face discrimination and barriers to opportunity in higher and further education settings, whether they are students or staff.

“By acting together to address the most persistent inequalities in Scotland’s colleges and universities, we can make a lasting positive difference to people’s lives and help build a fairer country.

“This is the first time that a set of national equality outcomes have been agreed anywhere in Britain. As Britain’s authoritative equality regulator, we encourage public bodies in other sectors to look at and mirror this approach to strengthen their own compliance with the Public Sector Equality Duty.”

Khadija Mohammed, Senior Lecturer in Education at The University of The West of Scotland and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, said:

“I welcome this report from SFC and the EHRC. In Scotland, we asked our vice-chancellors, university leaders and governing bodies to demonstrate leadership and accountability for eliminating racism, consider how race is enacted in their institutions and focus on addressing it as a strategic priority.

“The development of national equality outcomes will seek to reinforce this landmark commitment to removing racism. In combination with outcomes targeting the inequalities experienced across a range of protected characteristics, it is testament to the shared agency and leadership we hoped to achieve across the sector.”

The next phase of the joint work will include agreeing a national measurement framework to help institutions report on progress. Over the next three years SFC will oversee delivery of the equality outcomes across Scotland, supporting their implementation and monitoring progress.

Tackling Persistent Inequalities Together [PDF], a joint report from the Scottish Funding Council and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, is available from today.