Race Update 3 – Advance HE Positive Action Checklist

Advance HE (formally Equality Challenge Unit) published an End of project report in January 2020. The report reflects on a 2016-2018, Advance HE project that invited institutions in England, Wales or Northern Ireland to explore creative approaches to tackling underrepresentation of specific protected groups in a collaborative programme called “Increasing Diversity”.

Usefully, the report contains a Positive Action Checklist written by Professor Chantal Davies at University of Chester (as understood under s.158 of the Equality Act 2010) in its Appendix which is reproduced below for those interested in this type of equality work. It was first published in the Attracting Diversity End of Project Report.

The list is intended as a starting point, to highlight key questions or considerations which institutions should reflect on.

Definitions used in the Advance HE Report:

Positive or targeted action: refers to actions which are focused on or limited to a specific beneficiary group, with the aim of redressing the effects of past discrimination, underrepresentation and meeting specific needs.

Protected characteristics: identity or group characteristics which have specific legal protections against discrimination, harassment and victimisation. There are nine identity characteristics covered under the UK’s Equality Act 2010 (applicable to England, Wales and Scotland), named as: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race; religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

‘Race’: As a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 (s. 9) this refers to a range of characteristics including colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origins. Advance HE approaches ‘race’ equality from the position that ‘race’ is a social construct. For further notes on Advance HE’s current use of terminology on ‘race’ see  www.ecu.ac.uk/guidance-resources/using-data-and-evidence/use-language-race-ethnicity/.

Step 1. Evidencing and understanding a disadvantage: the ‘reasonably think’ test

  • is there a particular need, underrepresentation or disadvantage among a group that the institution wishes to address? 
  • what is the evidence of that need, underrepresentation or disadvantage (ie how is it that you ‘reasonably’ think it exists)? 
  • what is the cause of that need, underrepresentation or disadvantage

Step 2. Designing and balancing an initiative: considering ‘proportionality’ 

  • how will a particular measure address the need, underrepresentation or disadvantage? 
  • might any other groups be disadvantaged by the introduction of the measure (conduct an equality impact analysis)? If so, what plans are in place to alleviate or mitigate negative impacts? 
  • is there another, more effective (or less adverse to other groups), way for the HEI/college to address that need, disadvantage or underrepresentation (ie proportionality)? 
  • does the measure rely on objective and transparent criteria? How will you ensure decisions in relation to the measure are taken on an individual basis (ie a ‘savings clause’)?

Step 3: Rollout and evaluation: sustaining ‘proportionality’ 

  • for what period of time will the measure be in place? What arrangements are in place to review the impact of the measure? How will you embed review mechanisms to consider when aims may have been achieved, or the measure is no longer needed or appropriate (a ‘sunset clause’)?
  • consult, communicate and publish rationale, details of measure and mechanisms for review.

This list was produced by Professor Chantal Davies at University of Chester, Advance HE (formally Equality Challenge Unit).

Here is a link to Resources provided by Advance HE for those considering equality work.


Please feel free to email me at pastandpresentfellow@royalhistsoc.org with and questions or comments.

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