The annual Advance HE – Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2021

This Virtual conference will be held on 16-18 March 2021 and will bring together the annual Advance HE EDI conference with the biannual Scottish conference with the theme – Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: creative thinking in tackling inequality.


Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: Creative thinking in tackling inequality

The theme of this conference speaks to the reality of EDI work in both HE and FE – a growing focus for attention internally and externally, ambitious, analytical, forward-looking, practical and increasingly complex. As EDI becomes more embedded in institutional values and strategy and becomes more of a measure for the student experience, institutional interest in creative responses to tackling inequality is growing.

Whether focusing on newly emerging issues or dealing with those that are stubbornly persistent, as a sector we can seek inspiration, insight and guidance to navigate the EDI landscape through sharing learning and advancing evidence-based good practice. Learning from both inside and outside the HE/FE sector can stimulate new ideas and innovative approaches to tackling systemic inequalities.

With institutions taking increasingly intersectional approaches to equality work, aspects of inequality once hidden and silenced are emerging in colleges and universities. Once considered taboo, issues such as gender-based violence, decolonisation, the menopause, and privilege, are now emerging areas of discussion and innovation. Creating space for once unspeakable conversations will increase capacity in the sector to examine the experiences of people who may be left behind in traditional approaches to equality and address emerging practical challenges. By linking policy and practice, this conference can facilitate a refreshed perspective to support the sector’s ambitious equality aims.

The theme Courageous conversations and adventurous approaches: Creative thinking in tackling inequality will cover the following sub-themes:

Day 1 (Scotland focus)

  • Sexual harassment in the workplace and tackling gender-based violence.
  • Aging population of the workforce.
  • Race equality, whiteness, privilege and power.
  • ‘Hidden’ gender issues (for example: infertility, miscarriage, maternity/paternity/shared parental leave, breastfeeding/expressing support, menopause, gender and age discrimination etc.).

Leading the change: Embedding strategic approaches to equality in colleges and higher education institutions

  • Mainstreaming equality – embedding a whole-institution approach through cultural and systemic change.
  • Diversity in governance – moving beyond gender balance.
  • Equality impact assessments – developing a strategic approach to effective and proportionate equality activity.

Positive action: Addressing underrepresentation and inequality through targeted initiatives

  • Being brave with positive action.
  • Intersectional approaches to advance equality in student access.
  • Increasing recruitment of disabled staff.
  • Positive action in the promotion process.

Days 2 and 3

EDI and leadership

  • Inclusive leadership that really makes a difference.
  • Genuine distributed leadership approaches for hierarchical environments.
  • Strengths-based/neuroscience approaches to managing inclusively.
  • Room at the top/related to top leadership.
  • The role of governance in EDI.

Belonging and safe space

  • No right not to be offended? – navigating the tensions between protection from harm and freedom of expression.
  • Supporting staff and students through hidden challenges (i.e. Infertility, miscarriage, infant loss, bereavement, menopause etc.).
  • Rethinking the curriculum (decolonise not ‘diversify’).

Bridging the gaps

  • Creative approaches to pay gaps.
  • Sponsorship/mentoring/reverse mentoring: creating the environment that supports the progression of marginalised groups.
  • Increasing provision and uptake of shared parental caring, paternity leave, flexible working.

Thinking forward: Effective management of EDI in a changing environment

  • EDI in the global arena: partnerships, international campuses.
  • Ambitious benchmarking/demonstrating impact.
  • Innovative HR practices for recruiting, developing, valuing and rewarding approaches that value EDI.
  • Crisis or opportunity  – building reputation and dealing with critical incidents in the digital age.

Skills building for EDI change agents

  • Responding to majority privilege – fragility, ownership and allyship.
  • When speaking becomes doing – what makes EDI work effective in creating positive and sustainable culture change?
  • Intersectionality in action – reflecting the lived experiences of staff and students facing multiple disadvantage in EDI work.
  • The power of storytelling: the personal narrative as a tool for change.

Date: 16-18 March 2021
Venue: Virtual
Who: All HE and FE professionals including colleagues from Scottish colleges

Download Resource
EDI Conference programme – Day 1 (16 March 2021)


Download Resource
EDI Conference programme – Day 2 (17 March 2021)


Download Resource
EDI Conference programme – Day 3 (18 March 2021)


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