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Inclusion, equality and diversity

​We support and promote life-changing opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds at every university.

Graduation ceremony
Universities support upward and lateral social mobility by improving opportunities and life chances for individuals, they facilitate economic growth by ensuring a workforce with high-level skills, and they deliver a range of public sector benefits to UK society as a whole. 

The knowledge and skills that universities help people acquire also help people to change career, and adapt to technological and social change.

Supporting social mobility​ - higher education report published     

Universities transform lives. Going to university leads to new ways of seeing the world, to new horizons and networks, and to significantly enhanced job opportunities. But not everyone benefits in the same way. In 2015, Universities UK, working collaboratively with universities, students, schools, vocational training and further education colleges, third sector organisations and employers, set up the Social Mobility Advisory Group​ to support universities in widening access and increasing participation in higher education so that everyone can benefit from it, irrespective of their individual background and circumstances. ​

The Group met on 3 occasions, and following extensive analysis, evidence gathering and input from experts, published a report in October 2016 with recommendations for universities to improve social mobility. These include recommendations to:

  • improve the use of data in driving future developments
  • a greater priority on communications - to students of all ages
  • more effective evaluation of policies and interventions
  • a focus on 'what works' underpinned by a robust and systematic use of the evidence. 

The report also highlights the increasing focus on universities working with partners in their regions to develop sustained initiatives that align with broader regional agendas including the new government opportunity areas published in January 2017.

UUK is now working with universities and others including schools, employers and third sector organisations to support implementation. A sector-wide report on progress will be published at the end of 2017.         

Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion   

The term 'equality and diversity' describes an approach that values difference and treats each individual fairly and with dignity and respect, free from harassment and bullying.

We believe that a diverse and inclusive organisational culture – one in which everyone feels valued and can learn or work to their full potential – makes for a more effective and productive higher education workforce. 

Report published by the Department of Education offers guidance to support disabled students

In January 2017, the Department for Education published Inclusive teaching and learning in higher education providing good practice guidance to help universities support their disabled students. The guidance has been produced by the Disabled Student Sector Leadership Group, chaired by Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton and supported by Universities UK and the Department for Education. The guidance builds on the work and good practice already in place across universities to support disabled students to succeed. The Social Mobility Advisory Report encouraged universities to review the guidance (see Recommendation 14).

UUK Taskforce to examine violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting students  

The taskforce was established in September 2015 to support universities in both preventing and developing an effective response to gender-based violence, harassment and hate crime. The taskforce - made up of university leaders, student representatives and academic experts, met four times, and on the basis of an analysis of the evidence identified a range of recommendations to support universities in adopting an institution-wide approach, embed effective preventative measures and maximise the support provided to students. These were set out in its report, ‘Changing the Culture’, published in October 2016. Alongside the report, new guidance was published to support universities in managing situations where a student’s behaviour may constitute a criminal offence.  

Alongside supporting the sector to implement the recommendations Universities UK is continuing work in this area including  exploring the issues relating to the prevention and response of staff on student harassment and the development of a directory of case-studies to support the sharing of good practice.

Other work includes working closely with the Equality Challenge Unit, Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and HEFCE to raise awareness of the rationale and benefits of improving diversity in higher education leadership

Taskforce to examine violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students: progress report no. 2

6 April 2016
Report of the second meeting of the taskforce to examine violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students, on 16 March 2016.

Social Mobility Advisory Group: progress report 1

4 March 2016
Universities, government and employers are encouraged to develop degree apprenticeships in this report published during National Apprenticeship Week 2016.

Taskforce meeting

Taskforce to examine violence against women, harassment and hate crime affecting university students: progress report no. 1

17 November 2015
UUK taskforce on violence against women, harassment and hate crime summary note of first meeting

Breaking down the barriers report cover

Breaking down the barriers to Student Opportunities and Youth Social Action

1 July 2015
A framework to help students’ unions and universities working together to reduce or remove barriers around student volunteering.

Student mental wellbeing in higher education: good practice guide report cover

Student mental wellbeing in higher education: good practice guide

13 February 2015
For the teaching and support of students experiencing mental health difficulties was commissioned by us and produced by the Mental Wellbeing in Higher Education Working Group.

Power of part-time report cover

The power of part-time: review of part-time and mature higher education

16 October 2013
There were nearly half a million people in the UK studying part-time at undergraduate level in 2011-12, making up 29% of the UK undergraduate population. Yet across the sector, numbers are declining.

Access for all report cover

Access for all

8 July 2013
Access for All uses data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE) for the years 2004-2009.

Academies and trust schools: where do universities fit in? report cover

Academies and trust schools: where do universities fit in?

12 May 2009
The opportunities and challenges universities may meet if they engage with two relatively new types of state-maintained school – academies and trust schools.

Higher education engagement with schools and colleges: partnership development

12 May 2009
Updated version of the evidence submitted to the NCEE in 2008 by every English university on how they work with schools to raise awareness of higher education and improve attainment in schools.

Margins to mainstream front cover

From the margins to the mainstream

14 December 2005
The third in a series of reports undertaken to explore how universities and colleges in the UK are supporting access to higher education for young people from lower socio-economic groups.


Improving student retention 2018

12 Jun 2018, 09:30 - 16:30


Go International – try more, do more, fear less

1 November 2017
Simmone Mclean, student at the University of Northampton, discusses her life-changing experience of studying abroad as part of her degree.

Tuition fees in the news: student participation and disadvantage

1 June 2017
Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, sets out the facts on student participation and disadvantage.


Universities UK President conference speech: having policies and strategies in place to address harassment is not enough

8 November 2017
Professor Janet Beer, President of Universities UK, has said that all strategies designed to address harassment must be accompanied by activities to support cultural change in our universities.

Universities UK response to Office for Fair Access annual summary of institutions' access agreements

23 August 2017
Universities are working to better identify what support has the most impact and ensure that interventions are built on a strong evidence-based approach to boost social mobility.

The team

Daniel Hurley

Dan Hurley

Programme Manager
Universities UK

Fiona Waye

Fiona Waye

Senior Policy Lead - Inclusion, Equality and Diversity
Universities UK