Disability Equality Scheme – Annual Report 2007/08
The University remains committed to equal opportunities and
diversity which are part of the core values of the institution. Our
aim is be an inclusive organisation where everyone has a fair
opportunity to fulfil his/her potential.
One of our central aims as a university is to make a difference to
the experience of potential and current disabled students and staff
and to create an environment where diversity is recognised and
valued. We appreciate the positive contribution that disabled
people make to society and are committed to doing our part to give
disabled people a fair and equal chance of succeeding as part of
an inclusive community of students, staff and partners.
This report was considered by the University’s Academic Board on
19 November 2008 and will be considered by the Board of
Governors at its next meeting.
Professor Christine King, DL, CBE
Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive
Staffordshire University published its first Disability Equality
Scheme (DES) in December 2006. The Scheme set out our
commitments to disability equality, how we would engage and
involve disabled people and how we would assess the impact of
our practices, policies, regulations to ensure we were fair to all
groups of people. We also set out our Action Plan for the next
three years covering the areas of students, staff, the physical
estate, the wider community and marketing and information
This report reflects the second year of operation of the Scheme
and is intended to show what progress we have made against our
Action Plan and what we have learnt from that.
Achievements against the Action Plan during 2007/08
The University has made considerable progress during 2007/08
towards meeting its stated actions. Not all the target dates have
been met but a number have been achieved earlier that
anticipated. Attached to this report is the updated Action Plan
showing what has been achieved, where work still has to be
completed in some areas and where decisions have been taken
not to continue with a particular action.
Below are some of the highlights of the key issues under the main
headings we have used in our Action Plan.
The number of students declaring an impairment in 2007/08 was
1338 (8.4%) out of a student population of 16000. This number
was 800 (5%) for 2006/07 against a similar student population.
We have therefore seen a 67% increase in students declaring an
impairment between last year and the previous year.
Engagement with disabled students continues to be one of the
most difficult issues we have faced last year. Disabled students
have been reluctant to attend open meetings, focus groups and
scheduled meetings to discuss their views of the University and
contribute to our plans. A key feature of our 2008/09 Action Plan is
to find ways of engaging more disabled students. We have been
one of six successful universities to secure project support form
the Equality Challenge Unit on ‘Furthering the involvement of
disabled students in Higher Education Institutions’. This is a one
year project and will produce information available to all HEIs in
progressing this area of difficulty.
Nevertheless, Faculties have had a little more success in involving
disabled students on their staff/student committees and Faculty
A considerable amount of work has been undertaken in developing
inclusive learning environments and improving flexibility to meet
the demands of disabled students.
Each Faculty and Service has appointed a Disability Co-ordinator.
Those for the Faculty are responsible for liaising with the students
and teaching staff in their Faculty.
Each Faculty has developed a staff development programme that
covers inclusive learning principles and disability equality.
Examples include staff development sessions on supporting
autistic and hearing impaired students. Assessment schedules
and associated support for individual students are regularly
reviewed and amended as appropriate.
A resource bank of alternative assessment strategies to allow
teaching staff to customise assessments in order to meet
individual student needs is being developed. We are also working
to establish a policy on Inclusive Assessment.
All placement policies have been reviewed to ensure compliance
with current legislation and placement provider practice has also
been reviewed so that disabled students can participate fully in
The University’s annual Student Viewfinder Survey asked students
to express their level of satisfaction with our equality and diversity
policies. Nearly 74% (73% in 2006/07) of the students who
responded to the survey were satisfied with our promotion of
equality and diversity in the University and 59% (56% in 2006/07)
were aware of our Disability Equality Scheme. We believe that this
is encouraging although recognising more needs to be done. We
will continue to work with our disabled students, in particular, and
with the Students’ Union to ensure that we reach more students.
The University has worked hard to both encourage disclosure and
increase the number of staff declaring an impairment. In 2006/07
41 staff declared an impairment (2.4% of the workforce). This
number has increased to 80 (4.2%) for 2007/08 against a similar
workforce population. In October 2008 5.25% of the workforce
had declared an impairment.
29 staff have indicated an interest in joining a Disabled Staff
Forum. Training needs for staff will be considered by this Forum. A
series of leaflets promoting diversity including one on disability
were developed last year which are made available to all staff and
students at intervals throughout the year.
Disability Equality programmes have been built into the
University’s Management Development Programme, and training
initiatives for non management staff are included in the University’s
open programme of staff development.
The Physical Estate
On an annual basis progress towards completion of works
identified in campus access audits is evaluated and monitored and
contained in a report to the Board of Governors.
New build plans are vetted by both access consultants and the
local Planning Office to ensure compliance. The University has
also developed a Strategic Access Statement in accordance with
the Town and Country Planning Act 2006.
A Residential Accommodation Strategy is being developed as part
of a wider review of the University’s residential estate. Work on the
strategy started November 2007.
The Wider Community
Work has started with Stoke-on-Trent City Council to look at
representation of young disabled people. We hope to establish a
conference for young disabled people, working with Aim Higher.
We have signed a contract with Staffordshire Assist whereby they
provide staff on two days a week to work with disabled students
and their academic tutors.
Marketing and Information Services
Both Marketing and Information Services have set up groups
which include disabled students so that they can get direct
feedback on the accessibility of marketing materials, IT and other
services they provide for students.
Disability awareness training has been undertaken by the staff and
work continues on revised guidelines to all staff of the University
on the use of marketing materials.
Each year, Information Services provides inductions and tours for
students with disabilities and for their support workers.
Equality Impact Assessment
All the University’s policies and procedures have undergone an
initial Equality Impact Assessment by 1 December 2007.
All University-wide policies have been identified and
documentation drafted to assess all written policies. Training has
been undertaken with staff from all areas of the University in order
to raise awareness of Equality Impact Assessment and to provide
support to them.
10 out of 113 policies were identified as ‘high priority’ and a Full
Equality Impact Assessment has been carried on 7 of the 10 so
far. The results of these are being disseminated to the authors of
the policies for consideration and action.
A timetable for the completion of Full Equality Impact Assessment
has been agreed.
Monitoring the Action Plan
The Action Plan has been reviewed by the Disability Forum which
reports to the Diversity Committee and Academic Board. Each
Faculty and Service has also produced its own Action Plan which
feed into the University’s Action Plan. Half yearly reports on
progress against the plans are reviewed and discussed at the
Disability Forum which has representatives from all Faculties and
Services and the Students’ Union.