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As part of this report, our Vice-Chancellor, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, and EDI manager summarise the last year and the importance of promoting equality, diversity, and inclusion within the University.

For further information on any aspect of this report, contact one of the following representatives directly.

Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive

Sir David Bell KCB DL

When COVID-19 struck in the spring of 2020, few thought we would still be managing its consequences nearly two years later. Undoubtedly, it has tested us – collectively and individually – in many ways.

Yet, the pandemic has not weakened our resolve to make the University of Sunderland a great place to study and work, and one where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. That should not be a surprise because we are an institution with a life-changing purpose, underpinned by strong values

We can report on good progress this year in everything from the improved academic performance of students from minority backgrounds, through outstanding support for our care-experienced and estranged communities, to our active work to combat period poverty. These are just but a few examples of our achievements, all of which help to create a positive atmosphere across our campuses.

I remain grateful to Professor Jon Timmis, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Commercial) for his leadership, on behalf of the University Executive, as we seek to maximise the impact of equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives. Justine Gillespie, our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, is a highly effective colleague who has accelerated our work across all aspects of EDI while, at the same time, continuing to remind us that it has to be a collective effort.

I would pay tribute to the Students’ Union (SU) for the excellent work they are doing. All three SU Presidents – covering the areas of education, welfare, and activities – have a strong focus on EDI. They have now been joined by a new President for the University of Sunderland in London, enabling the SU to strengthen further its work on EDI.

Finally, our approach to EDI is driven by a sense of justice and the view that each person must be able to fulfil their potential. But it is also the smart thing to do because our success as a university and, indeed, our success as a society – socially, economically, and culturally – depends on every individual succeeding, irrespective of background. The University of Sunderland is proud to be playing its part in making that happen.

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Deputy Vice Chancellor (Commercial)

Professor Jon Timmis

Here at the University of Sunderland we are committed to creating a fairer and more inclusive institution for all staff, students, visitors and our wider university community, where equality, diversity and inclusion is an integral part of our university’s strategy, values and activities.

We see EDI activity as a positive collaboration, based on a shared purpose and sense of community, as a result during 2021-22 we have further developed our relationship with the USSU around this agenda to encourage staff and students to work closely together and play a part in building a more inclusive university experience. Across the University, there are numerous examples detailed in our annual report of excellent work that individuals and teams have conducted for our staff and students such as the global food festival which was a collaboration between the USSU and the BAME staff network, where over 300 staff and students came together over a shared love of food.

We have already made significant progress in fostering an inclusive culture throughout the institution. Some of the successes this year include our Faculty of Technology bronze submission to the Athena Swan charter mark, our bronze award in the Stonewall equality index and the development of our University statement on our commitment to menopause.

Creating an EDI-rich culture is a priority for us and we are proud of the tremendous support so many of us demonstrate in championing an environment where we can all feel safe, happy and, ultimately, ourselves.

The philosophy that we have taken this year regarding equality, diversity and inclusion has been focused on enabling everyone within the University to increase their understanding of the issues around EDI and its importance for all of us, no matter what our personal characteristics. The purpose of this approach is to empower our university staff and students.

We have continued to develop our training, communication and awareness package to enable staff to make the difficult and nuanced decisions needed to appropriately provide support and adjustments for those with protected characteristics and ensure that diverse teams can work together effectively. Examples of this are our Equality Impact Assessment and Reasonable Adjustments guidance, podcasts on neurodivergence and training on how to support those with eating disorders.  In 2021-22, 630 places were occupied within our training sessions, with 300 individuals taking the next step in their education on equality and diversity.

Our aim has been to help people build up the confidence to have some of the difficult conversations that might need to happen if we are to transform the way that students and staff are supported. We also want to enable staff to feel more confident making decisions that support individuals, and ultimately create a better workplace and study environment for us all. We want to develop a culture where people feel able to raise concerns around discrimination and to challenge positively if they feel that certain behaviours are not appropriate. 85% of staff who attended these sessions believe the training has changed their attitudes and/or behaviours.

Another area of focus has been understanding colleagues’ personal experiences of diversity or discrimination to build a necessary foundation of shared understanding and trust for further strategy work and for speaking with the broader university about these topics. These experiences lead to us developing a definition of islamophobia, developing additional leave for neo natal babies, providing caring with resilience support for our carers network, providing a veterans garden for reflection and contemplation and we have continued to be a sponsor for Positive Allies. 

A group was formed at the university to push Agenda2030 and the United Nations Sustainable Goals (SDGs). The 17 goals set by UN member states, are for all organisations, governments, and institutions to help to achieve by 2030. Ranging from gender equality, reduced equality, climate action, no poverty, and more, the university is a vital part of helping the U.K. to achieve their goal commitments. 

We have set up a group to ensure that our curriculum becomes more socially responsible, through bringing in the SDGs into all programme and curriculum areas. We have been working on a staff survey to gauge knowledge of the goals, before pushing training for staff on the SDGs and their implementation into the curriculum.

We will challenge ourselves to do all we can to ensure that equity, diversity and inclusion is central to everything that we do. Everyone in our workforce is unique and brings their own individual perspectives. We represent different age groups, socio-economic backgrounds, ethnicity, sexual orientation faith and beliefs. To gain the benefits of this diversity we must continue in the coming year to embed an inclusive culture where everyone feels comfortable voicing their own opinions and ideas. Everyone, whether we’re from a currently underrepresented group or not, has a role to play in creating a more inclusive culture.

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EDI Manager

Justine Gillespie

Deputy Chair of the Equality Diversity and Social Responsibility Group Email: justine.gillespie@sunderland.ac.uk

The importance of equality, diversity and inclusion within the university is not underestimated.  We know that research into the field continually reveals that a high level of adoption is associated not only with greater productivity and performance, but innovation, talent attraction, employee retention and overall workforce wellbeing.

We have continued to focus on effective and inclusive communication to ensure our staff feel they are empowered and that they belong and it's high on our strategic priorities.

Here at the University, I see a genuine commitment to create a fair and inclusive workplace.  This is essential to tackle the disadvantage experienced by many at work, based on their background, identity, or circumstances.

I think this year’s annual report shows that we are seeing change happen. For some, the situation is improving, but not for all. For example, attention tends to be focused mainly on gender and race, where systemic change is certainly still needed, but we need to place more focus on other personal characteristics such as social mobility, religion and belief and neurodiversity and will do that in the coming year.

Not everyone with a particular characteristic is benefiting from progress. For example, progress on female representation has mainly benefited white women. Therefore, in the year 21-22 we have tried to work as intersectionally as possible as people have multiple identities that are interlinked in a complex way. 

I believe that we are taking action and are motivated to do so by moral and social justice reasons, as well as recognising the business benefits.

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Contact us

We welcome feedback on Equality, Diversity, Inclusion and Social Responsibility.

Please contact our Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, justine.gillespie@sunderland.ac.uk or,
the Student Union LGBTQ+ Officer at yoursu@sunderland.ac.uk