Highlights from last week’s equality and diversity news – David Willetts links £200m funding for science and engineering teaching to evidence of commitment to equality and diversity, dyslexic student writes about the need for universities to support students with dyslexia who may be struggling with studies, EAT rules that employer’s failure to pay for employee’s treatment of depression was discriminatory, and film on underrepresentation of black academics in UK HE.
David Willetts, the universities and science minister, recently announced £200 million investment in science and engineering teaching in English universities. More importantly, he said that this funding will focus on encouraging women into these subjects and HEFCE, who will be administering the funding, are expected to look for evidence of commitment to equality and diversity in allocating the funds. Willetts cited the example of Athena SWAN as an institutional strategy for achieving gender equity. Athena SWAN Charter for Women in Science is run by the Equality Challenge Unit who have recently launched a Gender Equality Charter Mark (GEM) to cover the arts, humanities and social sciences.
A student has written about her experience of struggling with dyslexia at university: “During the first year of my sciences degree at a top university that prides itself on its research, I started to realise I could not read as quickly as other students on my course. When I went looking for help, a university welfare officer told me that this was not the place for me if I was already struggling.” The British Dyslexia Association (BDA) says that few school teachers have training in understanding and supporting dyslexia and therefore, many students slip through education without being identified. Universities have an important part to play in identifying and supporting dyslexic students by making reasonable adjustments but practice remains inconsistent across the sector.
Similarly, employers are expected to make reasonable adjustments for disabled employees. In a recent case, EAT ruled that employer’s failure to pay for employee’s treatment of depression was discriminatory. The employee suffered from work-related stress and severe depression. After a few months’ absence, she was assessed by a consultant psychiatrist who recommended paying for specialist cognitive behavioural therapy and a further six psychiatric sessions. However, the employer did not act on his recommendations, thereby discriminating against the employee under the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the code of practice in force at the time (now incorporated into the Equality Act 2010).
Finally, last week we posted a film on the underrepresentation of black academics in UK higher education. It explores the impact of this underrepresentation on students, institutions, curricula and wider society. The film features Paul Gilroy, Selwyn Cudjoe, Denise Noble, Rob Berkeley, Hakim Adi, Robbie Shilliam and Adam Elliott-Cooper. If you haven’t watched it yet, you can find it on the blog.
Anything to add? Write to us – Equality.and.Diversity@lse.ac.uk.