Equality scheme and objectives

Diversity matters

The University of Plymouth strives to be an open and accessible organisation; one that upholds the values of equality and diversity and actively stands against all forms of discrimination.

Whether you are a member of staff, a student, one of our alumni, or a member of the community, the University champions and promotes freedom of speech and expression, and celebrates diverse views and experiences. Indeed, equality and diversity is fundamental to the institution’s Vision to ‘make a positive difference to people’s lives’ and provide ‘an inclusive and inspiring university community'.

Our equality scheme

How do you measure the true value that diversity brings? At the University of Plymouth, we do this through our equality scheme, which recognises the good work that we’re already doing, while setting new challenges and goals for the future. 

The equality scheme helps us to drive positive change through clear equality objectives and targets, which challenge the University to use its resources to deliver sustainable, successful outcomes.

The University’s current equality scheme covers 2017 - 2021 but every year, the institution reviews and documents its progress through its Annual Equality Report. This helps it to update its objectives and targets and respond to new challenges and priorities. For example, the University is seeking to address some specific gender imbalances that recur at a national level, such as encouraging more female staff and students to take up STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine) subjects, as well as recruiting more male staff and students to specialisms such as health sciences. It is also examining attitudes of males from lower socioeconomic groups towards higher education, both as a means to understand the University’s own position better, as well as engage with external groups to identify potential actions. 

Our equality objectives

The Equality Act is often described as having three specific ‘aims’. 

These are:

Equality of opportunity

Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.

Elimination of unlawful discrimination

Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct prohibited by the Act.

Fostering good relations

Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and people who do not share it.

The objectives and targets the University has currently agreed to work on with the Board of Governors are:

Promotion of opportunities through support, practices and communications for all protected characteristics.

Staff objective

  • Focus on gender as a key priority, using Athena SWAN as a model to drive action and embed equality of opportunity.

Target impact (by 2021)

  • The percentage of professor posts held by women to be at least equal to the national/regional benchmark (as per Athena SWAN action plan).
  • The proportion of female applicants and promotees from eligible female population to be at least equal to the proportion of males for each of the career pathways.
  • The gender pay gap within professional services grades 1 to 9 to be a maximum of -8%, and within executive and senior manager grades to be a maximum of -4% (where minus indicates in favour of men).

Student objective

  • Advance equality in student achievement, focussing on the core areas of attainment, retention and employability.

Target impact (by 2021)

  • The University gender gap in student attainment to be at least equal to the national benchmark.
  • The new DVC (Education and Student Experience) to set agreed improvement targets for the ethnicity gap in student attainment for UK and non-UK domiciled students by 2018 to drive improvement action by 2021.

Ensuring that our policies and practices are fair, reasonable, inclusive and free from discriminatory practices.

Staff objective

  • Use equality training to inform decision making and support staff to own, understand and enact their duties. 

Target impact (by 2021)

  • Equality eLearning is completed by 90% of all employees at the University. 

Student objective

  • Provide equality and unconscious bias training for students to raise their awareness of equality, diversity and inclusion.

Target impact (by 2021)

  • Equality awareness training is available for all students by 2018. 

Ensure that our culture is welcoming, inclusive and open.

Staff objective

  • Staff surveys (annual and/or pulse surveys) demonstrate an improvement in the way staff "feel valued", and an awareness of the opportunity to "input into decisions that impact them". 

Target impact (by 2021)

  • Staff surveys (annual and/or pulse surveys) demonstrate an improvement in the way staff "feel valued", and an awareness of the opportunity to "input into decisions that impact them". 

Student objective

  • Ensure our students feel that the University is a welcoming and inclusive environment. 

Target impact (by 2021)

  • To demonstrate an improvement in line with comparable benchmarks by 2021 against the new question in the NSS "I feel part of a community of staff and students" (Q21). 

The actions that the University intends to take over the next four years to realise its objectives will evolve over the lifetime of the Equality Scheme. The Annual Equality Report provides an update on the actions taken in the preceding year, their impact, and what our next steps are as we move towards our targets. Some of the actions we plan to take this year include:

  • Completing the roll-out of a new academic promotions process with training, workshops and support for managers in our work to encourage more eligible female academics to apply for promotion
  • Reviewing feedback on new mentoring and training programmes targeted in the first instance at women as part of our work to encourage more women to apply for promotion and also providing support to early career researchers
  • Development of local accessible data to support School and Faculty teams with their Athena SWAN applications and impact monitoring
  • Partnering with the Students’ Union (UPSU) to develop workshops on workforce equality rights awareness for students
  • Further developing and promoting our annual calendar of events underpinning cultural, religious, health and wellbeing awareness activities
  • Further development of campus accessibility information and maps to enable staff and students to navigate around the campus effectively

Annual monitoring data

Having an equality scheme is one thing, but informing people about the work the University is doing, helps to bring it to life. By law, the University is required to publish an annual update on the work it has undertaken to meet its equality objectives, and as outlined earlier, this takes the form of an Annual Equality Report. The report includes all of the equality monitoring data linked to the scheme.

Support our policies

Whatever you’re doing at the University, whoever you’re working or studying with and in whatever capacity, our equality and diversity, religious diversity and dignity and respect policies apply to you.

We also have a specific policy for trans applicants, students, and graduates.

We all have a responsibility to respect and follow our equality policies, and to try and make sure that what we do and how we behave doesn’t amount to discrimination or harassment in any way.

Our commitment

Our increasingly diverse community of staff and students is part of what makes our University so special. Valuing the different contributions that each of us brings and respecting each other sits at the heart of our commitment to the talented people who visit, work and study with us.

We're fully committed to promoting equality and eliminating discrimination for our staff and students, applicants and visitors. This means that as an integral part of the way we work, we seek to ensure that people are treated equitably regardless of their:

  • age
  • disability
  • ethnicity (including race, colour and nationality)
  • gender
  • gender reassignment
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy or maternity.

We regularly review our approaches to ensure we deliver our commitment. For example, since the report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Report in October 2019 “Tackling racial harassment: Universities Challenged” our University Executive leadership team has reaffirmed their commitment to ensure we take action to tackle all forms of racial harassment and any other harassment.


The Board of Governors, through the Vice-Chancellor, has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that our equality policies are fully implemented. 

Each manager is accountable for delivering the equality commitments in their areas of responsibility. 

All staff are required to ensure that they apply the University’s equality and diversity policies and this is enshrined in our job descriptions.

But there is a broader expectation that as well as our staff teams, all of our students, partners, and those carrying out work or delivering services on our behalf will comply with our policies and ensure that their behaviour and/or actions do not amount to conscious or unconscious discrimination or bullying and harassment in any way.

On a day-to-day basis University Equality Diversity and Inclusion team working in partnership with the Academic Registry as well as alongside our committees and other forums support us in guiding, implementing, and meeting our annual reporting responsibilities under the Public Sector Equality Duty.

In February 2020 the University of Plymouth launched “Speak Up” which is an online reporting tool available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. This tool allows staff, students and visitors to report incidents anonymously so we can continue our preventative work against abuse, hate or harm. For staff, we also have established informal and formal policies and process and support networks to understand and tackle all forms of harassment (e.g. confidential dignity and respect advisors network, staff networks).

Our approach 

The world we live in is constantly evolving, but at the core of our work we need a clear and simple structure to discuss matters and make decisions. We recognise that our governance and reporting structures are critical to our success.  We intend to build on our excellent reputation for the quality of our reporting, and our ability to monitor our progress and success against our equality and diversity commitments. This will include reviewing the way we work on a formal basis to:

  • monitor the progress we are making against our equality objectives
  • determine proposals for changes to our policies
  • collectively discuss plans and actions we want to put in place to realise these.

In 2012/13, we decided to start making some changes. We formally recognised the critical role that diversity plays in shaping our University culture. In agreement with our governors, we began by changing the name and terms of reference of our central equality and diversity committee. Renamed as our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDIC), the committee asked itself three key questions that shape the work we're now doing:

  • How do we measure and capitalise on the true value that the diversity and richness of our talented people brings to us, through their skills and experience?
  • How do we articulate this in a way that moves beyond reporting on individual protected characteristics, but rather recognises the multiple facets that each of us possesses?
  • Is the way that we communicated and connected our formal reporting responsibilities in the past the way that we want to moving forward?

We're embarking on a new journey to answer these questions. A journey where everyone connected with the University feels that they can bring the best of themselves in to what they do, and interact with others in a way which is respectful and empowering. This is in line with our University values.  

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committees

Reporting ultimately to the Board of Governors, the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDIC) includes representatives from our academic, research and student communities, staff network representatives, as well as from our professional services and trade unions. Each faculty has it's own EDIC which in turn reports to the University EDIC.

Members of the EDIC come from a broad spectrum of backgrounds and career levels, with each person being recognised for the unique voice and perspective they bring to our work. They are selected for their passion, their insights and commitment to making a difference.

Collectively, the EDIC works on cross-university matters, with faculty committees leading on work local to them. Professor Sube Banerjee is our executive champion and chair of the EDIC.