The University of Leeds is fully committed to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). It is central to everything we do as an institution and community, and it is a vital and inseparable component of Universal Values, Global Change, the University’s 2020–2030 strategy.
Building on our existing EDI work, including our Equality and Inclusion Framework 2020–2025, this strategy is our vision for how the University will advance equity, diversity and inclusion for our community.
EDI is beneficial for all. That is why it is time to do things differently. Where universities might once have primarily focused on EDI initiatives to ensure legal compliance, now we must embrace institutional cultural change along our core values of inclusion, integrity, compassion and collaboration.
Watch this short introduction video from Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor:
With this vision and the enabling EDI strategy, which will follow, we aim to outline approaches to making the pernicious effects of bias and discrimination understood. Only if we are all aware of the biases in our society, can we as an institution and as individuals improve diversity and create a sustainable inclusive environment. Understanding and a will to act can help us focus – empowering us, individually and as a community, to make change happen.
Counterbalancing bias and discrimination, and taking preventative and remedial steps, will improve student outcomes, benefit the wellbeing of our entire community, enhance our research, student education and societal outreach culture, strengthen our foundations as a democratic institution, and help drive the sustainable global change we all desire.
The University’s 10-year strategy articulates our desire to make a difference to the world. By harnessing our expertise in research and education to tackle inequalities, we can drive change and shape a better future for humanity.
How we do what we do, how we act when we do it, and how we approach and reflect the society we are a part of is critical to this mission. That means building EDI into every element of the staff and student lifecycle. Our approach is holistic – looking not just at our systems, processes and policies but our institutional culture, to help us build momentum for sustained and sustainable positive change.
Our EDI strategy is for our entire University community and has been designed to be proactive, accessible and implementable across our organisation, from our teaching and research to student and staff experiences on campus and in accommodation, and how we interact with our partners around the world and fulfil our important role in society.
It outlines our overall objectives and priorities, building upon our success to date to advance our goals and bringing together the EDI aims already embedded within existing University strategies.
We see EDI activity as a positive collaboration, based on a shared purpose and sense of community, and we will enable our staff and students to work closely with us and play a part in building a more fulfilling university experience for all and a better, more equitable world.
We want the University of Leeds to be a beacon of best practice within higher education, and wider local and global communities, demonstrating how to eliminate bias and discrimination. This strategy, with its comprehensive consideration of existing and emerging stigmatised characteristics, is our roadmap for this transformation.
Our EDI strategy does not stand alone – our EDI goals are embedded within existing University of Leeds strategies:
Research and innovation
- Research culture and equality.
- Fair and equal assessment of research performance.
- PGRs from under-represented groups.
- Access and Student Success, including admissions policies, regional educational attainment.
- Sense of belonging/inclusive culture.
- Inclusive curriculum, pedagogy, educational practice and student support.
- EDI impact assessment of technology developments.
- Equitable access to education, including local learners and addressing digital poverty.
- Enabler of inclusive practice and inclusive student experience.
- Support a diverse community/backgrounds.
- Intercultural awareness.
- Global cohort integration and belonging.
- Global education to address traditional equalities, including Global South.
- Promote a sense of belonging/inclusive organisational culture.
- Staff diversity reflective of the student population.
- Equitable and inclusive staff recruitment, development and progression.
- Services, resources and communications to support a diverse, global community.
- Multi-generational workforce.
Our EDI strategy underpins and unites the core academic and enabling strategies of the University of Leeds. It will apply in three ways:
- Internally – it will guide how we operate as an organisation, our systems, processes, policies and procedures, and the positive impact that this could bring to our students and staff, the institution itself and the wider University community.
- Externally – it reflects our ambition to have a civic and global impact and can also be a driver of social change beyond the walls of the University, locally, regionally and globally.
- Academically in the course of our endeavours as creators of knowledge and evidence on bias and discrimination, and the dissemination and application of this knowledge and evidence.
We will be a place where every person is accepted as equal, inspired to participate and empowered to succeed, in line with our University values of inclusion, integrity, collaboration and compassion.
In this future, opportunity, recognition and support are available to all, in an environment conducive to wellbeing and where there will no longer be dis- or under-empowerment, racialisation or marginalisation. Bias and discrimination – both existing and new – are recognised, understood and overcome. Trust and respect are earned and reciprocated in the same manner.
Collaboration continually enriches our University community, the region and ultimately the world. We belong to multiple communities, each unique and equally valued, but we are also a shared community with a collective sense of purpose. Together we will work towards realising a future where equity, diversity and inclusion are celebrated.
We want to be a magnet for students and staff from all backgrounds, cultures and communities. To achieve this, we need to not only actively address discrimination and bias in everything we do but also become an example of how equity, diversity and inclusion can transform a community and society.
We want to bring together the broadest representation of people and create an authentic and visionary whole that will make people want to come to the University of Leeds and embark upon a life-long relationship with us.
The EDI strategy has been designed to achieve the following goals:
- Provide a firm anchor for the University strategy, our values and the principles of community, culture and impact.
- Communicate that we can all make a contribution to the realisation of equity, diversity and inclusion.
- Guide practice and priorities in response to the difficult questions we will face as we strive to increase our equity, diversity and inclusion on campus and our contribution to the world.
- Ensure that during our process of change and transformation, our equality work maintains the highest quality: promoting innovation, professionalism, and an evidence base.
Our strategic approach to EDI differs in three main ways from previous approaches:
It is holistic
We will use targeted action to focus on anti-discrimination using all available tools within the Equality Act 2010, including positive action, as demonstrated in the Access and Student Success strategy and in recruitment.
We will consider inclusion and access in physical and digital spaces, internal and external, ensuring our libraries, teaching spaces, living spaces and IT systems support and enhance equity, diversity and inclusion.
Our ambitious work in decolonisation, Curriculum Redefined and our five-year University-wide review to refresh all undergraduate and taught postgraduate programmes will help fulfil our goal of considering the needs of our student and staff communities from across the globe.
Inclusive research communities will play an essential part of our EDI strategy, as will encouraging more global and interdisciplinary research collaborations. Beyond this, we will build new foundations for these inclusive research communities. Research activity infused with EDI principles will create a healthy environment within which people and ideas, research and researchers can flourish. We will ask research questions that are inclusive and we will design and carry out our research in such a way that the outcomes can equitably serve society. In turn, this will deliver the highest quality evidence needed to inform innovative approaches to the most urgent problems, wherever they arise.
It is multi-level
To transform our community, all members of our staff and student community need to work together. Equity, diversity and inclusion can’t be left to those directly affected or discriminated against. To succeed, everyone needs to feel that they are able to contribute to enhancing equity, diversity and inclusion goals.
Harnessing the energies and expertise of those in our community, whatever their role, will hasten positive change.
It is global
Our global student and staff community plays an essential role tackling inequalities on campus and in the wider world. Our strategy will enable our students to be role models and positive change-makers wherever they go. With an influence reaching across the globe, they will be the leaders of the future.
Throughout the higher education (HE) sector, there is evidence that staff and students from under-represented groups are excluded whilst at university. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this phenomenon and for some it has highlighted further the inequalities they face. This is one of many ongoing challenges, from pay and award gaps, recruitment and promotion gaps, unrepresentative curricula, under-representation in our staff body, lack of inclusion, being stigmatised and discriminated against, and feeling unsafe in working, learning and living spaces.
These issues are reflected in broader society. Few communities or groups around the world are unaffected by the pressing local, national and global challenges and emergencies of today. Universities are at once deeply affected by these challenges and vital players in finding solutions. Global responses to these challenges include social movements such as Black Lives Matter and intergovernmental action like COP26 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, to which we are fully committed.
Inequity in higher education
- Out of more than 22,000 professors at UK Universities, only 35 are Black women.
- While overall, 76.3 per cent of students received a first or 2:1 degree, only 64.9 per cent of Muslim students received this level of award.
- The average gender pay gap at UK universities in 2020 was 17.7%.
A platform on which to build
We are home to world-leading research and scholarship that are tailor-made to support EDI activities at the highest level, which positions us to be at the vanguard of good practice and impact.
These include, amongst others, the Centre for Ethnicity and Racism Studies, the Centre for Disability Studies, the Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies, the Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence, the Centre for Religion and Public Life, as well as professional service experts and support staff. To operationalise our EDI vision, expertise from across the board must be brought to the fore and we need to work together.
Over the past five years, we have instigated many initiatives aimed at advancing equity, diversity and inclusion, demonstrating that targeted initiatives and resources can have an impact. These activities give us a platform from which to deepen and accelerate our efforts. Examples of success include:
- Investing in staff and organisational development to widen access to personal development, increasing EDI training and embedding EDI values in leadership programmes.
- Investing in and implementing our Access and Student Success strategy, which is increasing access, continuation and outcomes for students from under-represented groups, as well as reducing awarding gaps in some University areas.
- Decolonising the curriculum: working in partnership with Leeds University Union and Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence to draft a set of principles and frameworks in areas such as decolonising academic literacies, assessment and student opportunities, and curriculum content.
- Setting clear goals and actions in Curriculum Redefined to enhance the student experience and outcomes, including addressing common barriers such as digital poverty.
- Implementing an approach to using positive action provisions in the Equality Act in the award of student scholarships and inclusive recruitment process.
Recognising the increasing focus on EDI from funding agencies including UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), we are also aligning our efforts with theirs to create and deliver an inclusive research culture and system that works for everyone.
100 Black Women Professors NOW
In 2021, the University became one of six universities to sign up to a scheme by Women in Higher Education Network to support more Black women academics to become professors. Academics from Leeds are participating and benefiting from career advice, coaching and sponsorship from the Vice-Chancellor and senior University leaders. The initiative seeks to recognise the specific experiences of Black women and the programme aims to sensitise institutions and colleagues towards challenging existing systems and structures to drive change.
As part of our mission to be an anti-racist institution, the University has partnered with Santander to offer its students and staff a free online education programme, ‘Union Black’. The short course is intended to support students and staff to increase their understanding of Black British history, race and racism, and how individuals can make a positive difference.
Strategic objective 1 (SO1)
Structural: Equity, diversity and inclusion as an anchor in policy and practice
- Entrenching, through policy and practice, EDI as a constant in the life of the University, eg through engagement with national, sector-wide charter marks.
- Developing new systems and processes that enable EDI, not act as a barrier.
- Promoting mechanisms for tackling bias and discrimination, such as procedures for reporting harassment and a new introductory programme. These will be embedded and enhanced across the entire student and staff lifecycle.
Strategic objective 2 (SO2)
Cultural: An anti-discrimination and global inclusion approach
- Building a sense of shared responsibility, accountability and commitment to – and a willingness to be involved with – anti-discrimination and global inclusion.
- Embedding EDI in University culture in a manner that empowers all staff and students to be agents of change within their existing roles or responsibilities.
- Using compelling communications to convey the aspirational benefits of EDI to our community and the greater world.
Strategic objective 3 (SO3)
Community: Build trust and credibility
- Repairing, strengthening and propagating constructive relationships across the entire University and alumni community.
- Promoting clarity, quality, visibility, transparency and authenticity in the work of EDI.
- Providing safe spaces and respectful environments to encourage open and constructive conversations about diverse and difficult experiences and histories.
- Creating an environment that promotes belonging and strongly encourages individuals and groups to be treated with dignity and respect.
Strategic objective 4 (SO4)
Individual: Sustainable knowledge base
- Adopting a sustainable, evidence-based quantitative and qualitative data-driven approach to EDI integrating theory, research and best practice from across the HE sector and beyond.
- Strengthening our understanding of the present situation and focusing our efforts on where impact is most vital to more fairly allocate limited resources.
- Harnessing a wide range of expertise to develop evidence-informed interventions and to evaluate their success against appropriate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). These will be aligned with the wider University of Leeds KPI framework, which will ensure the continued sustainability and high quality of our EDI activities.
Strategic priorities within strategic objectives
SO1: Equity, diversity and inclusion as an anchor in policy and practice
Mapping EDI work visibly and identifying gaps between the current state of play and the future vision.
Appropriately resourcing EDI work by increasing capacity for EDI work at all staff and student levels.
Raising the profile of EDI work by incorporating recognition and reward within workload models and promotion.
Instigating more effective EDI communications to and with staff and students.
SO2: An anti-discrimination and global inclusion approach
Promoting access to careers at the University by removing barriers to physical and digital spaces, learning and development, and research and employment opportunities
Introducing transparent and accountable EDI governance structures, making senior University leaders responsible for achieving change.
Introducing national and international cross-sectoral learning, benchmarking and collaboration.
SO3: Build trust and credibility
Promoting a culture where students and staff can raise concerns through robust and effective reporting and supporting procedures.
Promoting belonging through creating safe and secure spaces for staff and students. Creating physical and digital learning and working environments which are physically and psychologically safe.
Developing a sense of urgency for EDI work and promoting a culture of care and candour.
Creating opportunities for constructive but difficult conversations and ways to build understanding and empathy.
SO4: Sustainable knowledge base
Creating a forum for sharing expertise in equality, diversity and inclusion.
Providing resources and opportunities that empower staff and students to make change through personal action.
Establishing parameters for EDI data and enabling access to this data more transparently and effectively.
Introducing SMART design of interventions and identifying relevant KPIs for all initiatives and elements of this strategy.