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Diversity vital for excellence, say Vice-Chancellors

Queen Mary University of London’s Principal has joined university leaders from across the country in outlining their conviction that equality and diversity are integral to a university’s excellence.

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Professor Simon Gaskell
Professor Simon Gaskell

Professor Simon Gaskell is one of 12 Principals and Vice-Chancellors to contribute to a report launched today (17 October 2014) by higher education equality body, the Equality Challenge Unit.

'The Rationale for Equality and Diversity: How Vice-Chancellors Are Leading Change' report is part of a Higher Education Funding Council for England initiative to address the lack of diversity at senior management, leadership and governance in higher education.

Based on in-depth interviews with university heads, the report reinforces the importance of putting equality and diversity at the heart of the university mission. For those interviewed, a university that did not value staff or student diversity simply could not be excellent.

The report also highlights the essential role that Vice-Chancellors and Principals can play in leading an institutions’ ethos.

The benefits of this approach in the 12 universities include: increases in the number of women at senior academic level; increased success in attracting staff and students from overseas, helping to meet widening participation goals, and improving overall performance and the institution’s position in rankings.

QMUL has a strong heritage in providing equal education opportunities. Its founding mission was in the education of disadvantaged people in east London, and it later merged with Westfield College, which was dedicated to the education of women.

Just over half of the QMUL undergraduate population are female, as are 50 per cent of the university’s 4,000 staff. More than 40 per cent of QMUL students are Asian or Asian-British, eight per cent are black and a further nine per cent are of mixed race.  

QMUL’s strong commitment to equality is also evident in that it was the first university to commit to paying all staff a living wage. It also provides research to industry on the business case for a living wage.

The university is involved in the B-MEntor programme run in partnership with Kings College London and UCL and is also the recipient of a bronze Athena swan award for equality, in addition to silver and bronze awards at department level. QMUL aims to achieve a silver award at an institutional level by 2016 and to start progress on achieving equivalent recognition in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

The latest QMUL Strategic Plan states: “We celebrate the diversity of our staff as much as that of our student body. We will reinforce targeted programmes of staff support and personal development, including opportunities related to teaching skills and student support, the High-Potential Leaders Programme, Women into Leadership, and tailored provisions for new senior office holders. We will build on recent success to further extend our accreditation in Athena SWAN and related diversity schemes.”

For more information and a copy of the full report, visit the ECU's website

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