This page describes our priorities for eliminating discrimination, ensuring equality of opportunity, and fostering good relations between different students.
Objective one: The OfS will develop, implement and consult on our equality and diversity objectives, evidence base, impact assessments and action plan to ensure successful implementation of our public sector equality duty.
- Annually reviewing our progress, reporting this to the Board, and being held to account for our performance.
- Linking equality and diversity success factors to our performance measures and outcomes.
- Seeking regular engagement, evidence and feedback from our stakeholders on how we perform against the public sector equality duty (EF1.2).
- Undertaking impact assessments of our policies and programmes, including updating the equality impact assessment for the OfS regulatory framework by March 2019.
- Clearly linking the equality and diversity strategy to our strategy and business plan.
Objective two: The OfS will conduct and publish rigorous and influential analysis, research and insight into equality and diversity (including the protected characteristics and socio-economic disadvantage) issues across the student lifecycle.
- Collecting the data we need to analyse the critical gaps in outcome across the student lifecycle, taking an intersectional approach wherever possible. We will extend our knowledge of groups that are currently under-reported, such as postgraduate and international students. We will work through our Regulatory Framework to improve the quality and coverage of data which relates to equality and diversity, including through our implementation of the Transparency Duty. This includes a commitment to update the equality impact assessment of the Regulatory Framework at key points in its implementation (EF3.1).
- Developing deeper insight into equality and diversity issues by including data analysis and insight from alternative sources, such as third parties, international data, and other industries and sectors.
- Enabling continuous improvement by engaging and collaborating with stakeholders, and using evidence and feedback to gather and triangulate insight and intelligence (EF1.2).
- Taking an ethical and proportionate approach to gathering and presenting data that does not unnecessarily overburden stakeholders. This will include innovative and mixed-method approaches to collection and presentation that upholds our legal duties and ensures compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation requirements (EF2.2).
- Supporting the sector to translate evidence into effective practice within providers, for example through a new Evidence and Impact Exchange (P1.1).
Objective three: The OfS will challenge the sector to significantly reduce gaps in access, success and progression for students from all backgrounds and identities and across all disciplines.
- Removing the degree attainment gap for black and Asian students (P2.1).
- Reversing the decline in mature student participation (P2.1).
- Improving access to higher education for white males from low socio-economic groups (P2.1).
- Reducing the challenges for students with a disability in accessing, succeeding and progressing in higher education (P2.1).
- Delivering our access and participation strategy. We will challenge providers through the access and participation plans, and support them by championing issues across the sector (P2.1). We will identify and share evidence on effective practice (P2.1), and underpin support on data and evaluation.
- Developing and implementing our approach to access and participation plans. Providing guidance and setting a requirement for continuous improvement, such as reducing gaps in access, success and progression and improving practices.
- Distributing and reforming our funding in a targeted way to support social mobility and equity through the access and participation strategy (P1.2).
- Implementing the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (P1.3) with due regard to promoting positive learning outcomes for all students.
- Implementing the transparency duty (P2.3), and working to develop the duty further, with the aim of capturing a greater number of protected characteristics (for example, disability and age).
- Using our analytical capability, and convening power, to champion issues and understand where progress is being made and gaps remain.
- Developing and implementing the Evidence and Impact Exchange (P1.1) with the aim of identifying and disseminating ‘what works’ in access, success and participation and driving effective practice.
- Implementing OfS policies to remove barriers to choice for students from all backgrounds and identities (for example, encouraging new providers into the market and driving new and existing forms of flexible provision).
Objective four: The OfS will work to address the risk of some students not receiving a high-quality higher education experience.
- Addressing the significant increase in students experiencing mental health problems; this will include the development of a mental health strategy for the OfS (E3.3).
- Tackling all forms of sexual harassment, violence and hate crime affecting students in higher education as part of the OfS’s approach to student welfare and wellbeing (E3.3).
- Implementing the initial and ongoing conditions of registration for quality to drive a high-quality academic experience for all students, giving explicit attention to the outcomes for students from underrepresented groups.
- Strategically reviewing our discretionary funding to lever innovation and effective practice.
- Actively promoting whole institutional, inclusive approaches to both the academic and non-academic student experience (for example, with regard to learning and teaching, access, participation, student welfare and safeguarding); including the development of an OfS student welfare and wellbeing (safeguarding) strategy (E3.3).
- Supporting sector-wide activity – for example, by funding and communicating effective practice - to tackle and reduce all forms of violence and harassment on campus, including sexual harassment, violence, online harassment and hate crime.
- Supporting sector-wide activity – for example, through funding and communicating effective practice - to enhance student support, including mental health and disability services (P2.1).
- Promoting a more diverse higher education workforce (including senior manager and governors) to better reflect the diversity of the student population.
- Using data, analysis, research and evidence to support continuous improvement and understanding of equality and diversity.
- Challenge the sector to eliminate differential impacts on students with protected characteristics in the event of provider, campus or course closure (E4.1).
Objective five: The OfS will work to reduce the risk that some students are prevented from doing as well as they can in higher education, and so do not achieve their full potential in employment or further study.
- Using our regulatory and funding levers to address long-standing gaps in higher education attainment for particular student groups (for example, students from some ethnic minority groups).
- Implementing the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework with due regard to promoting positive learning outcomes for all students (P1.3).
- Working with providers, employers and other stakeholders to better understand and address the causes of gaps in employment outcomes.
- Working with providers and professional associations to eradicate gaps in employment outcomes (O.1).
- Promoting activity that enhances employability and employment outcomes for students from underrepresented groups, and/or with protected characteristics, such as work placement, community engagement and student enterprise (O.1).
- Working with UKRI to understand the patterns of progression to postgraduate study for different student groups, and developing approaches through regulation, funding, and sharing of data and practice, to strengthen and diversify the postgraduate pipeline (O1.2).
- Undertaking analysis to improve understanding of the benefits of higher education to graduates (beyond income measures), and how these vary between different groups of graduates.
Read about our objectives for staff equality and diversity.
Progress so far
- Student equality, diversity and inclusion is a key feature of our new approach to access and participation. We have provided guidance for providers and training for access and participation plan assessors.
- We have taken a sector-level regulatory approach to safeguarding and welfare in order to challenge the sector to drive change, support providers in developing practical and effective approaches and champion good practice in tackling sexual violence, harassment and prejudice-based hate and harassment.
- The OfS monitoring and intervention team is continuing to refine its approach to how it monitors the outcomes and experiences of different student groups.
We have also identified additional priorities for student equality, diversity and inclusion over the next year:
- embedding our new approach to making inclusive decisions throughout the organisation
- providing equality, diversity and inclusion input into our student protection and exit market work
- focusing on the protected characteristics of sexual orientation, gender reassignment and religion and belief to better understand the issues students who share these characteristics face in higher education.