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Amid predictions that higher education will be changed forever by the current pandemic, Professor James Miller, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University, suggests the innovative ways the sector is responding to the crisis will make it even more valued in the future.
The current crisis has underlined the critical role played by the UK’s experts and researchers and the institutions supporting them, as well as the need for collaboration between them, says Dr Joe Marshall, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Universities and Business.
As a growing number of universities move teaching and assessment online in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Derby is holding a virtual conference which aims to support staff in making the transition.
The Office for Students is leaving it up to universities to decide on particular approaches to the Coronavirus pandemic rather than issuing specific guidance, and has promised to minimises its regulatory demands on the sector in response to the crisis.
New higher education staff and student data published by Advance HE shows some movement towards equality and diversity goals, but the pace of progress remains slow.
The 2019 annual staff and student statistical reports present data on staff and student identity characteristics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency for the 2017-18 academic year. The reports identify some positive trends, such as the continued increase in the proportion of female professors, rising from 24.6 per cent in 2016-17 to 25.5 per cent in 2017/18, and decrease in the attainment gap between White and Black first-degree undergraduate qualifiers with a First/2:1 degree, falling from 24.1 to 23.4 percentage points.
But Gary Loke, Advance HE's Director of Knowledge, Innovation and Delivery, said the data showed "we still have a long way to go" in promoting and achieving equality, diversity and inclusion in the sector.
"It's vital that we use this evidence about staff and student identity characteristics to help inform change and to advance the progress in making our sector representative and inclusive. Advance HE is absolutely committed to supporting the sector to achieve this, not just through our Charters and other EDI initiatives, but through our whole body of work, including leadership, governance and teaching and learning," he said.
This is the 12th year that Advance HE, formerly the Equality Challenge Unit, has published its analysis of diversity in the HE sector. The two reports present a snapshot of the age, disability, ethnicity and gender of staff and students, as well how these identities intersect. The reports also present data on the institutional collection and return rates for data on gender reassignment, religion and belief, and sexual orientation.
Advance HE says it intends to build on findings presented in the reports and produce further detailed data briefings on student religion and belief and the diversity of HE governors. These briefings will support members to identify potential challenges related to religion and belief that face students and provide vital insights into the diversity profile of those involved in HE governance.
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