As an ombuds service equality and fairness are at the heart of what we do. Our values include equality and diversity and we are committed to promoting this through our work and as an employer.
In 2020 we established a Diversity Steering Group, including Board members with a particular interest and expertise in diversity issues and the Senior Leadership Team, to oversee our work in this area.
Students and casework
One of our key organisational priorities is to review student complaints independently, fairly and effectively. Fairness includes recognising difference and ensuring that processes are genuinely inclusive, with students’ individual needs taken into account. We are committed to making our service as welcoming and accessible as possible for all who need to use it. We continually look for ways to strengthen inclusivity in the service we provide, for example through considering the feedback students give us on their experience of our service and looking for learning in our casework data.
We have a positive and proactive approach to making reasonable adjustments to our casework processes, and we are flexible in the adjustments we offer to meet individual students’ needs.
We have a Disability Experts Panel made up of disability practitioners and experts in disability matters to enable us to access specialist advice on disability issues.
We listen to students to try to better understand their different experiences. We do this through our casework and through discussion groups. So far we have held discussion groups with students of different ethnicities and with disabled students (see our Annual Report 2020 for more about what students told us in some of these discussion groups) and we hope to also hear from students with different lived experiences.
We collect diversity information on a voluntary basis from students who complain to us. This supports our ongoing programme of work to look at our casework data from this perspective, focusing on what we can learn to help us improve our own practice and to share additional good practice guidance with providers. In 2019 we looked at what we could learn about complaints from disabled students (see our Annual Report 2019), and we built on that in 2020, for example running a series of good practice webinars focusing specifically on supporting disabled students. More recently we have started to look at our casework data on complaints from students of different ethnicities. This is an important but complex area and we are continuing to take this work forward in 2021.
We also take steps to promote equality, diversity and inclusion within our organisation. We have a strong focus on having an open, inclusive and supportive organisational culture and we value everyone for who they are. We take steps to promote awareness and understanding of different equality issues, for example through inviting relevant external speakers and through encouraging open conversations between staff. We have a job evaluation framework and grading structure to set the appropriate pay grade for each role to ensure that people doing the same or equivalent roles are paid equally. We offer flexible working arrangements, including part-time positions at all levels, and a blend of office-based/remote working where appropriate.
In many ways our workforce is diverse, but despite the efforts we have made over many years some groups have remained under-represented. Addressing this is a key focus for us, and we have recently developed our recruitment practices to reach out more effectively to under-represented groups.Find out more about working for us
Our Board has a strong focus on equality, diversity and inclusion. We are committed to having a diverse Board and this is carefully considered when recruiting Board members. The Board takes an active approach to oversight of the organisation’s equality, diversity and inclusion work, including through the Diversity Steering Group which regularly reports to the full Board, culminating in annual discussion and review each December.
Black Lives Matter
Following the events of early summer 2020 we renewed our commitment to playing our part in advancing real race equality. We asked ourselves what more we could do, both as an employer and in our work. Since then we have further developed our recruitment practices and we have increased the racial diversity of our staff. We have taken steps to promote understanding within our organisation of race equality issues. We have progressed work we began in 2020 to see what we can learn from the complaints we receive from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic students, and we have held discussion groups with students of different ethnicities to better understand their experiences of higher education. We are very aware there is much more to do and our commitment and work around race equality are ongoing.
Diversity Steering Group
Student and Board Director Adesewa Adebisi talks about our Diversity Steering Group.