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January 2007/01 (web only)
Policy development
Final scheme

The HEFCE Equality Scheme

This document explains how we will meet our statutory duties to promote race, disability and gender equality. It brings together the Council's race, disability and gender equality schemes and sets out an equality action plan to address these issues.

To: Heads of HEFCE-funded higher education institutions
Of interest to those responsible for: Equality and diversity management, Human resources management, Strategic planning
Reference: 2007/01
Publication date: January 2007
Enquiries to:
tel 0117 931 7316

Contents, foreword and introduction (read online)


Equality in the higher education sector
Navigation of this Equality Scheme
About HEFCE, our role and strategic aims
Equality aims for the sector
Our approach
Responsibility for the Equality Scheme
Legislative context
Background and summary of work already undertaken
Reviewing and updating this Equality Scheme
Our monitoring arrangements
Our communications
HEFCE as an employer
HEFCE governance
Reporting on and enforcing the Equality Scheme
Complaints against the Council
Equality Action Plan


Annex A Equality Action Plan
Annex B Race Equality Scheme
Annex C Disability Equality Scheme
Annex D Gender Equality Scheme

List of abbreviations

Foreword from Professor David Eastwood, Chief Executive of HEFCE

The HEFCE Equality Scheme is intended to respond to the spirit as well as the letter of the law. The scheme aims to integrate equality and fair treatment issues into our core priorities and functions.

Leadership and commitment at all levels of the organisation are central to the success of the scheme. In everything we do, we will consider how we can ensure that we do not consciously or unconsciously discriminate against or disadvantage individuals or groups, and we will seek opportunities to promote equality and diversity wherever we can.

Higher education institutions are individually subject to the requirements of the legislation. Our scheme is designed to complement the work that is, and will be, taking place in the sector, and to offer support and guidance where this is useful and needed.

Our approach is described in detail in this document. The practical steps to be taken are presented as an equality action plan, to alert those in the Council and in the higher education sector to the work that needs to be done if we are to address the challenges effectively and meet the requirements of the legislation. Equality must be modelled in everything we are doing as a funding council, policy maker and employer.

The scheme has been subject to extensive consultation within the higher education sector and with other stakeholders. In general we have received a strongly positive response to our integrated approach, and have taken on board some suggestions to improve the scheme. We are committed to the continuing development of this scheme, and will be reviewing it regularly.

I would like to thank all those who have helped us develop our scheme and to everyone who has committed to working with us as we implement it.

David Eastwood signature

Professor David Eastwood
Chief Executive



1.   This is HEFCE's first merged Equality Scheme. It sets out our approach to equality and diversity, both for ourselves as an employer of 260 staff, and as a major funder of higher education in England. The Equality Scheme responds to our statutory duties to promote equality in three areas - race, disability and gender. The statutory duties are under the following legislation:

  • Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000
  • Disability Discrimination Act 2005
  • Equality Act 2006.

Key points

2.   The Equality Scheme includes our Equality Action Plan at Annex A, which lists our actions for all three areas, and our race, disability and gender equality schemes (at Annexes B, C and D respectively). The Race Equality Scheme at Annex B was originally produced in response to the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000. It was consulted on in May 2002 and revised fundamentally in 2004; this is largely unchanged from when it was published as HEFCE 2005/04. The gender and disability equality schemes are newly created in response to the legislation listed in paragraph 1.

3.   This document brings together our race, disability and gender equality schemes and sets out an equality action plan to address these issues. Currently there are no statutory positive duties in place to promote equality on the basis of sexual orientation, age, and religion and belief. However, we are aiming to go beyond meeting our positive statutory duties, and are committed to integrating these other strands into our Equality Scheme, so that it reflects the spirit, as well as the letter, of the law. We are currently at the planning stage of embedding these three strands into our action plan. This is an ongoing process and a high priority for us in the coming months.

HEFCE's Equality Scheme and the higher education sector

4.   This Equality Scheme is intended for HEFCE, as a public sector employer of 260 staff, and as a major funder of higher education. It is also intended as guidance for the higher education sector in developing their respective schemes in response to the statutory requirements under race, disability and gender. The Equality Action Plan in Annex A details all the actions from the three schemes. Action points which have a direct impact on the higher education sector are shaded.