Launched in May 2024, the Imperial Cohesion event series aims to support and develop the community at Imperial engaged with equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) work.

Hosted by Professor Lesley Cohen and Dr Wayne Mitchell, Associate Provosts (EDI), the event aims to be inclusive of everyone interested in EDI at Imperial. Each event will consider particular topics and include time for questions from the audience. Similar in format to the In Conversation with the President and Provost events, we hope to bring together everyone working on EDI and be a platform to ask questions.

1 May 2024 event summary

This inaugural event heard from:

  • Lesley Cohen and Wayne Mitchell, Associate Provosts (EDI), talked about the direction of the new EDI Strategy.
  • Kani Kamara gave a brief introduction to the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre (EDIC) and their work.
  • Chris Peters presented on the lessons learnt by the Department of Surgery and Cancer in their journey towards Athena Swan gold recognition

We had almost 200 registrations for the event, and over 150 people attending on the day. You can watch a recording of the presentations (Imperial login required).

We had nearly 100 comments and questions in the Q&A, and so we were only able to respond to a few of the most 'liked' questions during the event. We have grouped all of the questions by topic and provided written answers which you can read below.

Q&A responses

New EDI Strategy

We received a few questions about the new EDI Strategy, in terms of what it will cover and will aim to do.

The new EDI Strategy will aim to look at the overarching barriers that prevent greater inclusion across all under-represented groups at Imperial. This is not to downplay the importance of individual needs but to recognise that with effective design and planning the existing barriers can be removed, or their impact reduced, to promote greater inclusion for all.

Imperial Cohesion recognises that EDI is for everyone staff and students alike.  Academic staff, researchers, teaching fellows, professional services, undergraduate and postgraduate students all have a place within this strategy. Lesley and Wayne as Associate Provosts (EDI) work closely with Imperial Student Union and the Education Office and consult regularly to ensure alignment between policy and processes that impact on the wellbeing of staff and students.


We had a few questions about how the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Centre (EDIC) works, both in terms of the team members working with each other, and how departments and others around Imperial can best approach and work with EDIC.

For context, the team now known as EDIC is the result of organic development since 2002 when Imperial appointed an Equality & Diversity Consultant. The team has grown and changed names over the years. While the team has always been part of HR and only has a remit for staff, EDIC works closely with Wayne and Lesley, Associate Provosts (EDI), who have a broader remit (including students). EDIC sits within the Organisational Development and Inclusion (ODI) section of HR, under the Deputy Director ODI, Susan Littleson.

While there is not direct equivalent team for EDI for students, EDIC does liaise with other teams, for example Imperial College Union, the Disability Advisory Service, Education Office, etc. If you have a query regarding EDI students, we may not be able to help directly but will try to get you contact with the most appropriate team.

Members of the EDIC team have different roles and responsibilities but do talk to and support each other. A query may be passed from one team member to another, to best advise or support a member of staff.

Any individual member of staff can contact EDIC, and those working as part of local EDI committees are encouraged to talk to us about your work and planned activities. Please get in touch! We do some of our best work when in collaboration with local EDI leads on specific projects.

A few departments have recruited their own dedicated EDI roles. EDIC advises departments when the job descriptions are being developed, feeding in expertise to help departments design the role in a way that will help it to be achievable and successful. EDIC tries to work closely with these individuals to develop a community of EDI professionals.

The leads of your local department committees are also brought together through the EDI Forum. There are also Faculty-level committees, which Lesley and Wayne attend. This ‘Imperial Cohesion’ event series is being set up to be inclusive of everyone interested in this area. Wayne and Lesley can be emailed at any time.

Athena Swan Charter

We received a number of questions about the Athena Swan Charter, what it covers, and how it compares to other accreditation and charters.

The Athena Swan Charter is specifically about gender equality in Higher Education, and while there is an element of intersectionality, other aspects of EDI (e.g. ethnicity and disability) are not explicitly considered in its criteria.

The Charter has changed over time, with the most recent update being in November 2020 with the publication of the Transformed Charter principles, alongside new guidance and application forms. As part of the review before the Transformation, the question of expanding the scope of Charter was considered, but the independent review decided to retain the focus on gender equality. Currently, Advance HE (the organisation that runs the Charter) is exploring what a holistic approach to EDI might be. Imperial has given feedback into this project.

Other charter marks and accreditations do exist – for example Imperial also holds a Bronze Race Equality Charter award and is a Disability Confident Leader. Athena Swan is unique in that it operates/awards at a department as well as university level; a lot of activity related to other charters is generally coordinated at an organisational level.

You can read more about the Charter at Imperial on our Athena Swan page.

It is up to departments to set their own ambitions and priorities, and decide if they wish to aim for Gold. Imperial acknowledges the work required for Athena Swan applications and action plans, and provides support through Imperial’s Athena Swan Coordinator, Rob Bell.

All academic departments at Imperial now generally have an EDI or People and Culture committee, rather than an Athena Swan committee, reflecting their wider concerns and work. Through the EDI Forum, we have asked departments to set EDI priorities for 2023-24.


We received a number of questions about intersectionality, particularly in the context of Chris Peter’s presentation on Surgery & Cancer’s Gold Athena Swan Award.

As Chris answered at the event, there are specific criteria for Athena Swan, which include an element of intersectionality. However, the guidance on how to address intersectionality in an application is limited and gives autonomy to the applicant on how to address the topic (in line with the aims of the Transformed Athena Swan Charter). In practice, each Athena Swan application will likely approach intersectionality in a different way, and it is not fully clear what is required for the submission or expected by the panel reviewing the application document. As an example of Surgery & Cancer’s work, for their 2023 Athena Swan lecture, ‘No quick fixes: culture change in Higher Education’, they invited three distinguished minority ethnic female speakers to talk on their work and experience.

If you are interested in understanding more about the specific criteria of the Athena Swan Charter, please email Rob Bell, Imperial’s Athena Swan Coordinator.

Currently, Advance HE (the organisation that runs the Charter) is exploring what a holistic approach to EDI might be. Imperial has given feedback into this pilot project. It is not yet clear what the outcomes of the project will be, but potentially this could be something Imperial could engage with to develop a more intersectional approach to our EDI work.  

Imperial Values and accountability

We received a question about Imperial Values and how staff are held accountable.

Imperial Values make explicit the type of working and studying environment we aspire to. As they were developed by the community and formally adopted by the institution, their existence should act as a reminder and as ‘permission’ to discuss your experience at work, and improve it, if needed. The Values promote healthy dialogue about how we interact with one another, how we make decisions, how we behave on a good day and when we are under pressure. Intrinsic to Imperial Values is that we are human and we will get it wrong, and that we can come back from that by calm, constructive conversations in line with the Values.

You can learn more via our Values e-learning course and/or via a scheduled Values development session (dates coming soon) to better understand them.

If you are encountering negative behaviour, there are different stages and options available to you:

  • In the first instance, if you feel you can give feedback (based on the Values), you may wish to try giving feedback directly.
  • If you feel you need help, you could ask for a facilitated conversation. This is intended to address issues at a formative stage before they escalate.
  • If this does not work, or if it feels like a bigger or more deep-seated conflict, you can ask for mediation
  • Before any of these conversations, you can have a micro-development session. These short, targeted sessions can be used to help prepare for a difficult conversation. 

If you believe you have experienced, or witnessed, a breach of the Imperial Values behaviour, you can report using the Report and Support tool either anonymously or with your contact details. By providing your details, you will have the option to discuss the best interventions, specialist support, and identify the next steps, which may include making a formal report.

Summary data from the Report & Support tool are published on the HR website, alongside an overview of employee relations data.

We would also encourage all members of staff to consider becoming Active Bystanders. This training aims to empower staff across our community to challenge poor behaviours and bring about cultural change. 

Workloads and recognition

We received a number of questions relating to workloads and recognition, particularly for staff taking on EDI work (Athena Swan applications, serving on EDI committees, leading staff networks, etc).

For context, Imperial’s workload principles published in 2021 sets out that workloads should be managed and allocated at a Faculty/department level.

“Workload Allocation Models (WAMs) should be developed locally (at department or faculty level) to assist with the management of academic and teaching staff workload and should be developed in line with the following College WAM principles ….

College work should include service and administration at departmental, faculty or College level and other activities such as societal engagement (public, patient and community engagement), work to promote equality, diversity and inclusion and outreach.”

Imperial’s academic promotion criteria does include “promoting equality and implementing equal opportunities …  acting as an Athena SWAN coordinator” under Leadership and Management contributions.

Lesley and Wayne, Associate Provosts (EDI), are looking at ways that work undertaken as part of EDI, whether as part of a dedicated staff network or a departmental committee, are accurately monitored, measured, and managed so that the contribution to the cohesion of Imperial is recognised (for staff in all job families). This will require a change in perceptions and culture within Imperial.

As part of this, Lesley and Wayne have sent out a request for information, to capture the departmental workload allocation for people serving on their EDI committee. This is part way through and will then be reviewed and discussed at a future Cohesion event. Departments have adopted different workload allocation models and in some departments this is still at the developmental stage. It is important for us to be able to get a comprehensive overview across Imperial and as such we ask that you encourage your departmental EDI lead to complete the document which was circulated 22 March 2024.

Imperial also has several different staff award schemes to recognise and celebrate achievements. These include the Julia Higgins Medal and Awards and the President’s Award for Excellence in EDI.  

Support for those leading on EDI

We received a couple of questions related to support for staff, leading on EDI work in terms of challenges or resistances they might meet.

We are at a challenging time with regards to culture. The new Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act 2023 means that people can express their views as long as they do not incite hatred or violence. Where these occur, Imperial’s Harassment and Bullying Policy (under review at present) should protect people who feel unsafe within their work environment.

Later in the year Wayne and Lesley, Associate Provosts (EDI), will take a roadshow into departments and hopefully this initiative will help us to better understand your particular concerns and questions. In the meantime do not hesitate to email Lesley and Wayne.

Setting targets

We received a question about how best departments can set themselves EDI targets and evaluate activities for impact.

Through the EDI Forum, departments have been asked to set EDI priorities for 2023-24. We have published action plans online to increase transparency.

Each department will have their own context, and we encourage departments to set their own priorities based on a thorough self-assessment. This will then inform the best means of measuring impact. For example, departments may wish to use their data from Imperial’s Staff Survey to set priorities and measure impact.

In terms of further support, it may be useful for departments to start with the resources provided by Advance HE for their Charter marks, hosted on Advance HE Connect (any member of Imperial can create an account and access these), for example:

Departments can email EDIC to discuss their work and targets.


We received a few questions and comments on the topic of disability.

While Imperial’s Disability Advisory Service (DAS) is for students, support for staff is provided through EDIC. Several members of the EDIC team act as disability advisers. For example, EDIC can help organise screenings for dyslexia and other neurodiverse conditions. We encourage any member of staff seeking support start with our staff disability support webpages to understand what is available to help them.

At an organisational-level, work at Imperial is overseen by the Disability Action Committee.

EDI training

We received a question about how to encourage teams and departments to complete training on EDI.

As part of Imperial Essentials, all staff must complete our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Imperial e-learning course.

Every year, EDIC offers a standard programme of training courses that staff can attend. EDIC can also offer briefings to departments on request, and have worked with departments to deliver more tailored training sessions. EDIC also continue to develop a range of online resources, for example how to be a White ally.

Staff can also access Union Black: Britain’s Black Cultures and Steps to Anti-Racism online course, and a range of courses on LinkedIn Learning.

We would encourage departments and teams to consider the uptake of training in their areas, and for line managers to include discuss of EDI training and activity in staff’s Annual Review Conversations (ARC).

Groups and communities for those working on EDI

We received a question about support groups and social communities for staff working on EDI.

EDIC works with colleagues to bring together a community of people who have formal EDI roles across the College, for example holding a monthly catchup meeting. If you are an EDI professional working at Imperial and are not in touch with us. please email EDIC so we can start a conversation and get to know each other!

More broadly, there is a Local EDI Committees Team site, which is open to everyone on a department committee or working on EDI. This is used as space to ask each other questions, as well as share news and events.

Imperial also has a number of staff networks, including:

  • Able @ Imperial – open to all disabled staff and those who support disability equality in the workplace.
  • Imperial 600 – for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender staff, postgraduate students, and allies.
  • Imperial As One – for Black, Asian, and minority ethnic staff, postgraduate students, and allies.