Current work in College
Our efforts to develop an effective Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy build on existing work that involves many people and many different streams of activity.
Valuing the diversity of our staff and students is one of the four cornerstones of the Imperial College Strategy 2015-2020, which rests on the need to harness our collective strength as “a supportive and considerate community based on diversity, mutual respect and a commitment to excellence” and to “support and develop the breadth of talent in our student body and celebrate the diversity of our students.”
The Learning and Teaching Strategy published in 2017 is focused on the needs of students, who make up about 70 per cent of our university community and are drawn from local, national and international populations. Currently being implemented, this strategy explains how placing diversity and inclusion at its centre will make our teaching more responsive to our students’ diverse needs, by directly addressing bias and increasing the relevance and appeal of the curriculum. The Learning and Teaching Strategy also details how we will identify and remove barriers to access and full participation in education at Imperial, and how we will foster a culture and curriculum of ‘inclusive excellence’ that engages and values diversity.
Equality, diversity and inclusion issues touch all aspects of life at Imperial and are also being tackled by a wide range of initiatives
The most visible components of this work are schemes that provide external benchmarking of our efforts. These include the Athena SWAN awards, which operate at College and departmental level, the Race Equality Charter, Imperial’s participation in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, and the College’s status as a Disability Confident Employer.
An extensive array of staff development courses includes programmes that are specifically targeted at women (Springboard), at Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic staff (IMPACT) and at disabled staff (Calibre). Our Access & Participation Plan 2019-20 and the monitoring return to the Office For Students demonstrates our commitment to widening participation at the recruitment and admissions stage of the student life cycle.
Reviews and conversations
In 2016 an independent review of the College’s Institutional culture and gender equality noted many positive aspects of life at Imperial. But it also highlighted concerns that our focus on excellence risked fostering excessive competition at the expense of the empathy needed to build a more supportive environment that deals effectively with episodes of bullying and harassment. The review also suggested that more avenues for dialogue within the organisation were needed to create a stronger sense of belonging.
Work to address these findings is ongoing. It includes, for example, ‘step change’ conversations with staff and students to collectively identify particular issues and actions to address them, plans for a values co-creation exercise, and the roll-out of Active Bystander training across the College.
For academics, the Richardson Review has re-invigorated our determination to evaluate staff holistically by embedding a culture that values all contributions, including research, teaching, societal engagement and departmental citizenship.
For all staff, the regular College-wide staff survey remains an important mechanism for monitoring the health of our institutional culture.
For students, regular internal and external surveys of their experiences help to ensure that their voices are heard. Our students are also represented on numerous College and Departmental Committees, and the Learning and Teaching Strategy involves them as key partners in curriculum development and pedagogic transformation .
The College is also increasingly aware of the importance of mental wellbeing for its staff and students. Poor mental health, whether temporary or enduring, can lead to poor performance, isolation, and in some cases, to self-harm.
A number of coordinated efforts have been made to tackle this challenge across the College. Volunteer Mental Health Champions now help to raise awareness of mental health wellbeing at departmental level, while nearly 300 trained Mental Health First Aiders around the College can now provide initial frontline support. In 2017-18 the Student Union introduced a network of student wellbeing representatives who can relay important feedback from students to departments as well as signposting students to any relevant support services.
Some of the most recent developments indicating increased institutional commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion are the appointment of Imperial’s first Assistant Provost (EDI); the establishment of an executive Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Strategy Group, headed by the Provost; and the establishment of a Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Forum with a broad and representative membership. These two new bodies will work closely together to promote the integration of the values of equality, diversity and inclusion within the whole organisation that is envisaged in this strategy document.