Equality Act 2010 in higher education

by | Feb 29, 2024 | Blog, Safeguarding Policy

The Equality Act 2010 serves as a fundamental component in fostering a fair and equitable environment within higher education institutions. This legislation consolidates prior anti-discrimination laws, such as the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975, and is designed to protect individuals from unfair treatment based on certain characteristics.

The Equality Act outlines four primary types of discrimination: direct, indirect, harassment, and victimisation. Direct discrimination is evident when an individual is treated less favourably due to a characteristic they possess. Indirect discrimination occurs when an institution’s policy places certain individuals at a disadvantage, even if unintentionally. Harassment refers to behaviour that creates an offensive or hostile environment for an individual. Victimisation involves treating someone unfairly because they have made or supported a complaint under the Equality Act.

The Act identifies nine protected characteristics, ensuring that every member of the academic community is respected and valued, regardless of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

Educational providers must be proactive in preventing discrimination by reviewing their policies and practices to ensure they are inclusive. For instance, ensuring accessibility for individuals with disabilities, providing support for students undergoing gender reassignment, and accommodating religious practices are all essential measures. Marriage and Civil partnership characteristics do not apply to higher education when looking at the application of the Equality Act 2010 under Chapter 2.

Chapter 2 applies to higher education. It states:

Students: admission and treatment, etc.

(1)The responsible body of an institution to which this section applies must not discriminate against a person—

(a)in the arrangements it makes for deciding who is offered admission as a student;

(b)as to the terms on which it offers to admit the person as a student;

(c)by not admitting the person as a student.

(2)The responsible body of such an institution must not discriminate against a student—

(a)in the way it provides education for the student;

(b)in the way it affords the student access to a benefit, facility or service;

(c)by not providing education for the student;

(d)by not affording the student access to a benefit, facility or service;

(e)by excluding the student;

(f)by subjecting the student to any other detriment.

(3)The responsible body of such an institution must not discriminate against a disabled person—

(a)in the arrangements it makes for deciding upon whom to confer a qualification;

(b)as to the terms on which it is prepared to confer a qualification on the person;

(c)by not conferring a qualification on the person;

(d)by withdrawing a qualification from the person or varying the terms on which the person holds it.

(4)Subsection (3) applies only to disability discrimination.

(5)The responsible body of such an institution must not harass—

(a)a student;

(b)a person who has applied for admission as a student;

(c)a disabled person who holds or has applied for a qualification conferred by the institution.

(6)The responsible body of such an institution must not victimise a person—

(a)in the arrangements it makes for deciding who is offered admission as a student;

(b)as to the terms on which it offers to admit the person as a student;

(c)by not admitting the person as a student.

(7)The responsible body of such an institution must not victimise a student—

(a)in the way it provides education for the student;

(b)in the way it affords the student access to a benefit, facility or service;

(c)by not providing education for the student;

(d)by not affording the student access to a benefit, facility or service;

(e)by excluding the student;

(f)by subjecting the student to any other detriment.

(8)The responsible body of such an institution must not victimise a disabled person—

(a)in the arrangements it makes for deciding upon whom to confer a qualification;

(b)as to the terms on which it is prepared to confer a qualification on the person;

(c)by not conferring a qualification on the person;

(d)by withdrawing a qualification from the person or varying the terms on which the person holds it.

(9)A duty to make reasonable adjustments applies to the responsible body of such an institution.

(10)In relation to England and Wales, this section applies to—

(a)a university;

(b)any other institution within the higher education sector;

(c)an institution within the further education sector.

[F1(d)a 16 to 19 Academy.]

(11)In relation to Scotland, this section applies to—

(a)a university;

(b)a designated institution;

(c)a college of further education.

(12)A responsible body is—

(a)in the case of an institution within subsection (10)(a), (b) or (c), the governing body;

[F2(aa)in the case of an institution within subsection (10)(d), the proprietor (within the meaning of the Education Act 1996);]

(b)in the case of an institution within subsection (11)(a) or (b), the governing body;

(c)in the case of a college of further education under the management of a board of management, the board of management;

(d)in the case of any other college of further education, any board of governors of the college or any person responsible for the management of the college, whether or not formally constituted as a governing body or board of governors.

If a member of the higher education community (staff or student) experiences discrimination, they are encouraged to seek resolution through mediation or alternative dispute resolution before considering legal action. However, if these measures do not resolve the issue, individuals have the right to make a claim under the Act.

The Equality Act is not just a legal framework; it embodies the values of dignity, respect, and equality that are essential to the ethos of higher education. It is a reminder that diversity enriches the academic environment and that everyone has the right to pursue education without facing discrimination.

***

As we conclude our overview of the Equality Act 2010 within higher education, the journey doesn’t end with understanding its importance; it begins with taking decisive action to create safer spaces for everyone. This is where the Safeguarding Leaders Hub comes into play—a community dedicated not just to learning but to leading change.

Joining the Safeguarding Leaders Hub isn’t merely a sign-up; it’s a step towards becoming part of a movement. A movement where knowledge meets action, where resources are not just shared but implemented, and where each member is committed to elevating safeguarding standards within their sphere of influence.

By becoming a member, you gain access to a wealth of resources, training modules, expert advice, and a network of like-minded professionals. But more importantly, you become a beacon of change. Each member’s active participation and contribution amplify our collective ability to protect and empower those we serve.

So, as we part ways in this blog post, let this not be the end of your journey with safeguarding but a bold step towards becoming a leader in this critical field. Join the Safeguarding Leaders Hub today. Embrace the opportunity to make a difference, to learn, share, and lead by example. Together, we can forge a future where safeguarding is not just a policy but a culture embedded in the very fabric of our organizations.

The time to act is now. Become a member of the Safeguarding Leaders Hub, and let us transform our collective commitment into tangible actions that safeguard the well-being of our communities. Let’s not just be participants in this crucial conversation; let’s be the leaders who shape its outcome. Join us, and together, let’s lead the way to a safer tomorrow.

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Content Disclaimer

The information contained above is provided for information purposes only. The contents of this blog are not intended to amount to advice and you should not rely on any of the contents of this blog. Professional advice should be obtained before taking or refraining from taking any action as a result of the contents of this blog. Safeguarding Practitioners Ltd & Kate Flounders disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on any of the contents of this blog.

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