The Equality Act 2010 identifies nine ‘protected characteristics’, to guard those in e.g. higher education against the following forms of discrimination.

• Age
• Being or becoming a transsexual person
• Being married or in a civil partnership
• Being pregnant or having a child
• Disability
• Race including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin
• Religion, belief or lack of religion/belief
• Sex
• Sexual orientation

Suffice to say discrimination against those studying and working in higher education can create conditions in which individuals do not realise their full potential. Institutions must also ensure that they are not open to the legal and financial ramifications of discrimination. We therefore offer services to develop understanding, build confidence and improve practice in these and related areas. Our aim is to help HEIs to deliver inclusive learning, teaching and assessment and to enhance the experience of all students. We draw on evidence from the following contexts:

• Widening access including to students with protected characteristics or who are under-represented or disadvantaged.
• Inclusive learning and teaching
• Student engagement and belonging versus alienation and exclusion
• The experience of specific groups in higher education

Relevant publications

Thomas, L. and Linley, R. (2011) Social Mobility through Higher Education: Aligning Widening Participation and Equality. Ormskirk: Action on Access http://actiononaccess.org/resources/briefings

Thomas, L. (forthcoming) Developing a curriculum for diversity: Raising awareness, increasing understanding and changing practice, in Crook, D. and Cunningham, B. (eds) Professional Life in Modern British Higher Education: The death of ‘the don’? Bedford Way Papers series. London: Institute of Education

Woodfield, R. and Thomas, L (2012) Male students: Engagement with academic and pastoral support services. London: Equality Challenge Unit. http://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/male-students-engagement-with-academic-and-pastoral-support-services/
Jones, R. (2008) Vocational learners in higher education. York: Higher Education Academy

Thomas, L. et al (2009) Review of Widening Participation Strategic Assessments. Ormskirk: Action on Access.

Thomas, L. (2012) Building student engagement and belonging at a time of change in higher education. London: Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Relevant activity

Liz was invited to contribute to the HEFCE round table on widening participation and diversity as part of the development of the National Strategy on Widening Access and Student Success in 2013.
Liz has overseen work on the retention and attainment of Black and minority ethnic students for the Higher Education Academy.
Liz and Rob are currently researching the participation of girls and women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM).