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UCL Engineering EDI Draft Strategy - feedback and responses

Feedback received on the UCL Engineering EDI Draft Strategy and our responses

We are grateful for the many people who engaged with our Draft Strategy in some way -- whether through meetings, emails, or other mechanisms. When we published the draft, we also included a consultation form for feedback. Below, for transparency's sake, we reproduce the comments our 15 respondents sent in and our replies.


Respondent 1 

 

Your comments: Ensuring students that the university does care about them. Sending information on time regarding the situation after the pandemic- are the classes going to be online or not, for example. Reorganize the UCL web site. 

Our response: We recognise that the uncertainty regarding the academic year can generate frustration.  We believe this is now addressed.  We will feed back to SMT as appropriate. Our own website is a work in progress and we should have a new one soon.  Regarding the UCL website, we will feed back to the Central EDI team. 

Respondent 2  

Your comments: BAME is becoming a controversial moniker and I think if you include it in the strategy document you also need to ensure that the document recognises that there will be different issues arising from the various demographics who are grouped together as BAME. Also, providing statistics for BAME as a whole doesn't show where the disproportion lies. Someone maybe considered to be BAME may not recognise that term, or feel it doesn't best represent them. 

Our response: We agree terminology is a complicated issue but also important. We know that umbrella terms – like BAME – have sometimes been used in the past to conceal very different needs of the communities included under them. Our aim is to disaggregate data and show disparate experiences wherever needed. 

  

Your comments: In the draft strategy document there is no reference to or statistics provided for the  LGBTQIA+ community, where you have provided them for women, BAME and disabled. I think in a document that opens with wanting to foster a sense of belonging it is important to include something to acknowledge this group as well. 

Our response: This is a very fair comment. We really want to be inclusive and we will work with LGBTQ+ colleagues directly to address this oversight in an appropriate way in the document and we will acknowledge this community directly. 

  

Your comments: Black Lives Matter response with a visible effort to tackle issues that the black community face in Engineering around both overt and covert racism, barriers to career progression and feelings of marginalisation. 

  

Our response: Absolutely. We have started by doing one event in summer regarding race equality, from which our race equality pledges emerged and they should now be visible on our own websites for all of us to act upon.  But more than this, we are keen to engage with our Black community and we will work together with the co-Chair of the Race Equality group (Dr. M. Sulu) to visibly support our Black community in the ways which are most appropriate . 

  

Your comments: Fostering clear and rewarding career pathways for support staff. Ensure that there is clear accountability for bullying and harassment cases - where it is proven.  

Our response: Thank you. Our Faculty is working with HR and Organisational Development to ensure the job families and career frameworks structures being put into place are suitable to support the development of Professional Services staff; we recognise there's also cultural change work to be done to normalise the development of PS staff, and we look forward to working with the Director of Operations to further this in the Faculty as appropriate. 

Regarding bullying and harassment, this is central to our Strategy and this is clearly identified in our Strategy document.  We will work with HR and we will focus –at our end- on demystifying Report and Support and making clear to staff what options they have, in order to deal with bullying and harassment cases. 

Respondent 3 

Your comments: Did not know or hear about UCL EDI, related policies and support till I received the email inviting me to participate in this survey.  
[On things to focus on:] Safety, representation, communication and active listening. Better awareness creation among students and staff about role of and support offered by UCL EDI 

Our response: Thank you. We are aware that more effort in terms of communication is needed and we are discussing how best to support EDI comms by working together with our Digital Innovation Unit.  

  

Your comments: Clarity about work-life balance policy for PhD candidates. Introduction during induction programmes about EDI support and initiatives. Explore possibility of addressing work-life balance for PhD candidates and postgraduate research or medical students in work-life balance policy 

Our response: Thank you for your comment.  We acknowledge that this is necessary.  This is indeed part of the strategy. This is addressed in Objective 4: 

 4.1 Make clear behavioural expectations and University policy and ethos in terms of a healthy, kinder work culture 

4.3 Devise a communication and education campaign to make clear behavioural and professional expectations about what constitutes best practice in order to create an inclusive work environment. 

4.4 Encourage and promote discussions around healthy and inclusive working environments and address toxic work culture. 

4.5 Open inclusive and transparent communication channels (including regular liaison with staff and student groups) within the Faculty to discuss broader EDI issues and respond in a timely manner to concerns from staff and students. 

We are seeking to integrate an EDI component into the general Faculty induction for new staff, and are looking into providing materials or input suitable for use in local inductions. This is addressed in Objective 3.1: Support/develop appropriate induction programmes for all staff and students. 

Respondent 4  

 

Summarised at the request of the respondent:  

Fair Recruitment Specialists should be used for all posts grade 7 and up and PGR studentships where funding hasn’t been sought by an academic.  

All staff should have one EDI objective in their appraisal. 

All student-facing staff should take at least the half-day Mental Health Awareness course, which would help them dealing with students but also perhaps understand issues they face themselves. 

Staff need to be educated more on privilege and allyship. 

 

Our response: 

Thank you.  We completely understand and agree on the principle of fairness and the need. However, right now, the reality is that there is an issue with capacity as there aren't enough Fair Recruitment Specialists to cover all positions, not even at grade 8.   

After discussion with the UCL’s Race Envoy (Prof. Ijeoma Uchegbu) and the Co-Chair of the Race Equality Group (Dr. Michael Sulu), we have decided to focus on Leadership roles (grades 9 and 10) in the immediate future. However, we are working with the central EDI team and the Faculty CDTs to address this issue of capacity and so we can start covering at least grade 8 (see, for example, activities under Objective 5). 

 

We agree this is a fantastic idea, and will work with HoDs to implement this locally. While the standard (and formally approved) UCL appraisal form doesn't mention EDI specifically, local guidelines could be implemented in order to ensure this happens. 

We agree this is an excellent idea,  and will work with HoDs and Organisational Development to move forward with this and to incorporate this as part of one of our actions, which align well with Objective 2: Recognising EDI Values and Rewarding Citizenship. 

 

We couldn't agree more, and hope to incorporate these elements into our future work.  There are excellent champions for diversity and equity in our Faculty that are already doing work with Central EDI to provide training on allyship.  Our commitment is clearly reflected in our Strategy Document in Objective 1.10: Create more pathways to allyship, i.e, processes for people in our Faculty to actively promote and advance a culture of inclusion through intentional, positive and conscious efforts to support and amplify the voices of minoritised groups, as well as two short-term actions: Support and promote the different ‘ally’ training programmes at UCL, advertise appropriately and widely; and encourage and resource active bystander/ally training. 

 

Respondent 5 

 

Your comments: Creating forums for discussion with students, establishing clear avenues for reporting and feedback, developing spaces where students and staff can gather to discuss EDI 

  

Our response: Thank you. It's indeed crucial for us to continue to receive and take on board feedback from our staff and students, as well as creating spaces where these issues can be openly discussed. These spaces will now be created at Departmental level by the creation of EDI committees for each Department (including staff and students) and Student representation in our Strategic Advisory Board at the Faculty level. 

We will additionally promote any possible opportunity to engage with both staff and students in constructive dialogue regarding EDI and we are always open to suggestions. 

  

Your comments: Making sure this work is fairly compensated, making sure this work is driven by the concerns students and staff raise, making sure this work is well-funded, making sure the faculty develops a more inclusive atmosphere as a whole. 

  

Our response: We believe that EDI work needs to be acknowledged and planned for in workload allocation models -- we have been, and will continue to, press for this to happen in all departments. We also understand the need to continually realign our priorities with what we're hearing from staff and students -- we plan to have regular feedback mechanisms in an attempt to capture a broad range of thinking.   

 

Respondent 6  

Your comments: Existing research already demonstrates the recruitment and retention issues, so instead of commissioning work and creating WP metrics, we should draw on the existing evidence base. 

EDI Departmental Committees are not going to be useful. These committees will have probably no power and no ability to intervene. Equally, the ‘Faculty-Level Wellbeing champions’ network’ will be ineffective and won’t lead to tangible actions.   

The Deputy Head for EDI for each Department will be a figurehead. 

The department leadership must be held to account for going further than ‘lip service’ to the EDI strategy. 

I’m wary of approaches that nominate departmental leads or representatives for EDI – this can lead to other staff feeling like the lead will shoulder the burden of thinking about and implementing EDI principles. I do however support the idea of members of the department leadership having responsibility for EDI, as they have the authority and influence to integrate it into other activities (teaching, research etc) 

UCL should make a strong commitment that the EDI burden should be for, “privileged” communities (i.e., white males?) to bear. They should, for instance, be the ones asked to go into schools and work with students to encourage them to pursue a career in engineering or draft documents.  

Our response: We strongly believe that EDI discussions need to happen at the departmental level and we have requested the creation of specific Directors of EDI / Deputy Heads of EDI to lead this committee and sit within the senior management structure of each department.  Although we acknowledge that not all committees are equally effective, it is entirely unfair to assume that all committees are equal and serve no purpose. Moreover, the lead of each of these committees will sit on the EDI Implementation Group that will be monitored for progress and supported by the Vice Dean EDI and that reports directly to the Dean.  The structure we’ve created is one of direct communication with the critical decision-making structures within the Faculty and go straight from departments to the Dean’s attention. 

  

Regarding the creation of networks for EDI (including the Wellbeing Champions’ Network) there is a concerted effort to create supportive networks of individuals that can lift each other up.  EDI work can be lonely and frustrating and we strongly believe in creating communities of like-minded people, with similar objectives and ambitions to support each other, cooperate with one another, feel empowered and enact change.  We know by our own lived experience how life affirming and validating positive EDI networks can be.  They also present opportunities for learning and reflection.  Our EDI commitment is fundamentally created on the assumption that there is a lot of goodwill and that the collective power of our individual actions can make our Faculty even better. 

  

There is a lot of truth to the idea of the ‘burden of EDI’ on minoritised groups. That said, we believe EDI work is for everyone, including privileged groups and we want everyone to lift their weight.  Moreover, we really believe individuals who feel strongly that they want to do EDI work, should continue to do so. To incentivise EDI work from all, there is a substantial amount of effort in our strategy that is put on supporting and rewarding EDI citizenship, for example. See Objective 2: Recognise EDI Values and Reward Citizenship and 2.4: Encourage and reward best practice including team effort, community building and EDI citizenship) and these medium-term actions: Annual appraisals for all Professional Services staff and embed work on career pathways and Communities of Practice (both linked to TOPS) to establish and publicise clear routes for progression for PS staff, aligned with initiatives in Organisational Development and recognising citizenship in terms of EDI; and Provide training through mentorship from those seeking career progression, to improve chances of success at the application stage for the ‘next level’ job. Recognise this mentorship and reward it as part of ‘citizenship’ or other mechanisms. To make promotions fairer, see actions: Create a Faculty-Level Promotions Committee to support research, teaching and academic staff in their careers. Align academic appraisals with UCL’s promotions guidelines; Provide clear guidance to line managers to conduct appraisals, focusing on career development and mentoring, aligned to UCL’s promotions framework.  

  

Your comments: Dedicated kindergarten/nursery for each faculty: I was so surprised to hear that UCL has not a dedicated kindergarten which – by default – has spaces available for its staff. Most countries (and companies) in Europe that succeed in terms of gender equality make childcare not something that is dealt privately but that is part of the hiring package. Each faculty could have its own dedicated kindergarten – that would make a huge difference to staff (especially academic staff).  

Our response: We totally recognise this is a big issue for equality.  This is bigger than our Faculty. UCL is now looking at better childcare provision and different modes to achieve this and it has committed to look into this to try to serve better the UCL community. We will pass on this comment to the Central EDI team, which is the one leading this activity. 

  

Your comments: Anonymised complaint submission platform: The core problem in raising inequalities, injustices, harassment and bullying is that it is often happening between unequal parties – one is in a position of power, the other isn’t. This makes it difficult to escalate things, especially internally. Thus, UCL central should have an anonymised complaint form where students and staff could log issues that they have observed or encountered and that are then discretely followed up with or looked into 

  

Our response: UCL has the Report + Support system that has significantly evolved in the last couple of years.  We are aiming at creating more awareness about the system and demystify how it works and what the processes are behind it.  Just to be concrete: staff and student can report anonymously.  

  

Your comments: Headhunt diverse experts: An initiative should be set in place for UCL to make available budgets to headhunt key voices from diverse backgrounds that could be put in place within departments. These hires should receive a “special” funding pot to help them establish their team, which hopefully then inserts a diversification element for the future. These posts should not be just for professoriates but also ECRs.  

Our response: We think using head-hunters to diversify our workforce is a good suggestion.  There is also best practice and more modern ways of recruiting staff that we could use.  We are currently in the process of re-imagining our recruitment for a large number of positions that will open with UCL East and we are liaising with key stakeholders within the University in the process. 

That said, we also need to work within University regulations and UK law. 

  

Your comments: Studentships for minoritised groups: I think this is essential and a practical action.  

Our response: Thanks, we agree! 

  

Your comments: Encourage and support access to therapy for survivors of bullying/harassment: UCL should commit to partially fund private therapy solutions e.g., survivors going to their own, preferred therapists. A dedicated funding pot could be established and made available whenever internal e.g., Statute 18 hearings occur and have affected students and staff.  

Our response: We agree that more needs to be done, which is why we wrote an action for us to develop as part of our strategy.  Again, this is a bigger problem than the Faculty but that is not to say that we should not think and try to address it.  On the contrary, we will work with UCL to see what is actually permissible in terms of operations and will work with HR and other stakeholders to create change. 

  

Your comments: Encourage and resource active bystander/ally training: This probably should become a mandatory training.  

Our response: We agree. While some existing training (Where Do You Draw the Line, Out@UCL ally training) includes content on bystander intervention, we think this is worth drawing out into its own training. UCLU has begun delivering sessions on bystander training, and the EDI Coordinator is currently creating their own bite-sized session on this.  There’s also a new initiative led by some staff in UCL Engineering to address allyship and how to become better allies. More to come soon. 

  

Your comments: Work with the VD Research and the VD Impact on changing our research culture and redefining ‘excellence’ for impact, through targeted actions (e.g, Fellowship applications to any given funder): This should be addressed before the next REF.  

Our response: Cultural change takes time but we are aiming to make clear to all Departments, Centres and Hubs that UCL is a signature of DORA and we must adhere to DORA principles to asses excellence and impact in research and this needs to be reflected in recognition and promotion processes. 

  

Your comments: Dealing with a diverse workforce: Point “1.7 Prepare and better equip line managers to deal with a diverse workforce” should be connected to the Academic Manual which should be flexible enough to account for the diversity of people’s background and experience in the promotion process.

Your comments: The ‘Equity Fund’ for PhD students and staff: This is an interesting idea, but I wonder how this would be distributed and used. I would not want to see this being a length application process.

Our response: This is indeed part of the plan.  Not only by recognising EDI citizenship but by acknowledging the intrinsic value of each individual.  We would like to introduce mandatory training for new managers (and perhaps refreshers for long-standing managers) in the Faculty, which would include a component on working in diverse workplaces, and hopefully have a positive effect on levels of bullying and harassment. For the Equity Fund, we would seek to make the application fund as light-touch as possible but we will now need to look into what is required given the ‘UCL COVID emergency fund’ that is available as well as other support from the Doctoral School.   

Your comments: Fair recruitment specialists: These should also include Grade 7 appointments, as there is a risk that biases already slip into the recruitment of Postdoctoral researchers (i.e., more males/whites are hired – therefore it is these groups that can apply for Grade 8 permanent posts).

Our response: Thank you.  We completely understand and agree on the principle of fairness and the need. However, right now, the reality is that there is an issue with capacity as there aren't enough Fair Recruitment Specialists to cover all positions, not even at grade 8.   

After discussion with the UCL’s Race Envoy (Prof. Ijeoma Uchegbu) and the Co-Chair of the Race Equality Group (Dr. Michael Sulu), we have decided to focus on Leadership roles (grades 9 and 10) in the immediate future. However, we are working with the central EDI team and the Faculty CDTs to address this issue of capacity and so we can start covering at least grade 8 (see, for example, activities under Objective 5). 

Respondent 7  

Your comments: Create a measureable outcome for each of the EDI objectives, so that success can be objectively identified, and be worked towards. The document contains a lot of "promote", "support", which set us up for failure. EDI must start earlier, not just at Grade 8 and above. It starts with our undergraduate students. It requires fair contracts and opportunities, and an end to casualisation.

Our response: We hope our colleagues and students appreciate that this is a Strategy Document and it is by necessity, high-level.  That been said, it goes into a significant level of granularity and detail already.  We entirely acknowledge that each action needs measurable outcomes and this will be done in our Annual Work Plan, that should be available from our Faculty website. We also agree that we don't want EDI to be something that gets stuck at the upper echelons of staff and doesn't become part of everyone's role and everyone's ways of working. We've done some work in the faculty with PGTAs and contracts already. We would also like to engage more with undergraduate students to make EDI part of the way they learn here. 

Respondent 8 

Your comments: I think we make our students dependent and not resourceful enough by giving them so many options. For example, we have extended the deadline to submit the final dissertation 15 days without students asking for it. If students need an extension they could ask for it but by giving it to everyone, we are only allowing them to procrastinate and most of them wont work on their projects until mid august now that they have more time. The same applies to 24-hour online exams. Students only need 3 hours to sit an exam and deal with any technical issues that may arise, any additional time leads to collusion and doesn't add value; this is also unfair to those students that have attended lectures and studied during the academic year, allowing the weakest students to have better grades than they deserve.  I think we give more than needed and sometimes this subtracts value instead of adding it.  

I think UCL has done its best and given the circumstances this is the best outcome possible. I think UCL and Engineering needs to rethink what skills do we want students to develop. Teaching online is a wonderful opportunity for students to be more independent, manage their time better, organise their work, etc, instead of letting them organise this and make decisions, we make them and give them too many concessions, many not needed but allowing the weakest students to take advantage of it. If we do this again in AY 20/21 this could end up affecting our reputation.  

Deliver good quality education online or face to face. the university needs to embrace technology and innovation and have the right software as well as proper training for academics to use it. This is a moment of change and despite being a face to face university, we need to lead in change as well.  

Quick developments of online teaching and learning techniques and the development of enrichment activities that add value to the overall student experience. 

  

Our response: This is not within our remit but we will pass on the comments to the Faculty Tutor and the VD Education.  We will also feed back to the Faculty of Engineering Sciences Cohort Engagement and Experience Working Group. 

 

Your comments: Metrics are important, but I’m wary of ending up in a situation where there is increased representation of certain groups but their actual experience of being in the faculty is still much worse (in terms of unfair treatment and micro-aggressions, double standards and having to work harder to prove themselves). People’s lived experiences need to have significant weight in the narrative for EDI since the use of quantitative data can hide a multitude of sins. 

  

Our response: We wholeheartedly agree that people’s lived experiences is a key component to inform any EDI action or plan.  Data-driven EDI has merits but can also hide a number of issues (and data collection can be poor/biased/manipulated).  We know they can conceal a disparate number of experiences under broad categories, and hope that we would always use metrics with that caveat in mind. 

We propose the use of EDI metrics as one of the ways to assess Departmental and Faculty ‘performance’ in a number of areas pertinent to EDI.  However, these metrics that we are proposing are richer and more complex, centred on belonging, rather than diversity only, in order to capture in some way the experience of the people in our Faculty.  We need to be able to hold our own Departments and Faculty accountable, and these EDI metrics are just one way of creating a deeper and more insightful picture of the life of our Faculty.   

  

Your comments: The strategy around bullying and harassment doesn’t cater for examples where the extent of the problem is severe and there is a change of legal action – in this case, having open discussions is impossible (anything to do with litigation cannot be spoken about) and it is very damaging to a department’s morale and trust in the institution. 

Our response: We will pass your feedback on dealing with bullying and harassment to central EDI -- while UCL has been revising its procedures and policies around this, there is always room to improve. 

  

Your comments: Potential connections with existing UCL programmes – Liberating the Curriculum working group and Decolonising the Curriculum week, that could support changes in teaching 

- there will likely be some pushback to making Lecturecast mandatory, as there are unresolved issues around IP ownership, using recordings for strike-breaking and surveillance, that the university are yet to address 

- Explicit recognition of transgender groups – this is particularly relevant to ensure that staff get training on pronoun usage 

Our response: We do have a bite-sized training on pronoun and title etiquette that has been given in the Faculty several times in the past year, but we would like to increase take up of this training and also ensure we are taking other steps to support our trans staff and students, particularly in the face of rising transphobia in academia and at UCL. We have worked with Liberating the Curriculum and Decolonising the Curriculum staff, but would like to further these connections as well. We support the use of Lecturecast for accessibility and equity-related reasons and will feed back to central EDI the concerns you raise. 

  

Your comments: Establishing a structure for the ‘work’ of delivering the strategy across different levels and departments of the faculty, with clarity on how it is shared across different teams, and what is expected of them 

  

Your comments: EDI inevitably involves learning, adaptation and revision of approaches as we figure out what works and what doesn’t. Explicit learning processes should be identified within the strategy, particularly to monitor if actions are working or not, and revise them if they are not effective or produce unintended (adverse) consequences 

Our response: We agree with the principles stated and agree that more explicit structures to underpin EDI work would be useful -- as are ways to capture and review lessons learned.  

  

Your comments: Financial resources to support greater inclusion of under-represented groups – given UCL’s high fees, and plans to increase them, this is critical 

Your comments: Expanding the traditional scope of engineering education to engage explicitly with race, gender, intersectionality within the Curriculum 

Our response: We support the Decolonising the Curriculum/Inclusive Curriculum work going on at UCL and in the Faculty, and one of our specific actions is to work with and support the Black and Minority Ethnic Student Attainment Lead (which we are doing already) in order to assess the progress of the ‘Inclusive Curriculum Health check’ and further the impact of the activity. This is also a key action of our race pledges.  With our support and in concerted effort with the VD Education, we will provide critical input in terms of the ‘inclusive curriculum’ to our Education strategy for 2021 onwards, and we hope to see it broaden and deepen with time. We are also working with the WP office to try and increase access to our programs by underrepresented groups and will continue to do so, although we must acknowledge that this is far from easy. And we definitely agree that more accountability for EDI work is needed from senior management. 

Regarding resources, we entirely agree that EDI needs to be properly resourced and we are lobbying for more Central resources to be given to EDI activities within UCL.  It must be highlighted that right now we are operating under significant financial constraints. 

Respondent 9 

Your comments: Metrics are important, but I’m wary of ending up in a situation where there is increased representation of certain groups but their actual experience of being in the faculty is still much worse (in terms of unfair treatment and micro-aggressions, double standards and having to work harder to prove themselves). People’s lived experiences need to have significant weight in the narrative for EDI since the use of quantitative data can hide a multitude of sins. 

  

Our response: We wholeheartedly agree that people’s lived experiences is a key component to inform any EDI action or plan.  Data-driven EDI has merits but can also hide a number of issues (and data collection can be poor/biased/manipulated).  We know they can conceal a disparate number of experiences under broad categories, and hope that we would always use metrics with that caveat in mind. 

We propose the use of EDI metrics as one of the ways to assess Departmental and Faculty ‘performance’ in a number of areas pertinent to EDI.  However, these metrics that we are proposing are richer and more complex, centred on belonging, rather than diversity only, in order to capture in some way the experience of the people in our Faculty.  We need to be able to hold our own Departments and Faculty accountable, and these EDI metrics are just one way of creating a deeper and more insightful picture of the life of our Faculty.   

  

Your comments: The strategy around bullying and harassment doesn’t cater for examples where the extent of the problem is severe and there is a change of legal action – in this case, having open discussions is impossible (anything to do with litigation cannot be spoken about) and it is very damaging to a department’s morale and trust in the institution. 

Our response: We will pass your feedback on dealing with bullying and harassment to central EDI -- while UCL has been revising its procedures and policies around this, there is always room to improve. 

  

Your comments: Potential connections with existing UCL programmes – Liberating the Curriculum working group and Decolonising the Curriculum week, that could support changes in teaching 

- there will likely be some pushback to making Lecturecast mandatory, as there are unresolved issues around IP ownership, using recordings for strike-breaking and surveillance, that the university are yet to address 

- Explicit recognition of transgender groups – this is particularly relevant to ensure that staff get training on pronoun usage 

Our response: We do have a bite-sized training on pronoun and title etiquette that has been given in the Faculty several times in the past year, but we would like to increase take up of this training and also ensure we are taking other steps to support our trans staff and students, particularly in the face of rising transphobia in academia and at UCL. We have worked with Liberating the Curriculum and Decolonising the Curriculum staff, but would like to further these connections as well. We support the use of Lecturecast for accessibility and equity-related reasons and will feed back to central EDI the concerns you raise. 

  

Your comments: Establishing a structure for the ‘work’ of delivering the strategy across different levels and departments of the faculty, with clarity on how it is shared across different teams, and what is expected of them. 

  

Your comments: EDI inevitably involves learning, adaptation and revision of approaches as we figure out what works and what doesn’t. Explicit learning processes should be identified within the strategy, particularly to monitor if actions are working or not, and revise them if they are not effective or produce unintended (adverse) consequences. 

Our response: We agree with the principles stated and agree that more explicit structures to underpin EDI work would be useful -- as are ways to capture and review lessons learned.  

  

Your comments: Financial resources to support greater inclusion of under-represented groups – given UCL’s high fees, and plans to increase them, this is critical. 

Your comments: Expanding the traditional scope of engineering education to engage explicitly with race, gender, intersectionality within the Curriculum 

Our response: We support the Decolonising the Curriculum/Inclusive Curriculum work going on at UCL and in the Faculty, and one of our specific actions is to work with and support the Black and Minority Ethnic Student Attainment Lead (which we are doing already) in order to assess the progress of the ‘Inclusive Curriculum Health check’ and further the impact of the activity. This is also a key action of our race pledges.  With our support and in concerted effort with the VD Education, we will provide critical input in terms of the ‘inclusive curriculum’ to our Education strategy for 2021 onwards, and we hope to see it broaden and deepen with time. We are also working with the WP office to try and increase access to our programs by underrepresented groups and will continue to do so, although we must acknowledge that this is far from easy. And we definitely agree that more accountability for EDI work is needed from senior management. 

Regarding resources, we entirely agree that EDI needs to be properly resourced and we are lobbying for more Central resources to be given to EDI activities within UCL.  It must be highlighted that right now we are operating under significant financial constraints. 

Respondent 10 

Your comments: The strategy is very long and there is little hierarchy so it is hard to identify the first few key actions and it is too much to read.  

Our response: We took a deliberate decision to create a programme for 10-15 years of work and after internal consultation, many felt that it was necessary to present our EDI Strategy in full so people could appreciate the work ahead of us and the complexity of the task. The objectives are shorter but the list of potential actions is long. We will consider what can be done to the actions in the document so they are easier to follow. 

 

Your comments: Eradicate bullying and harassment and promote supportive ways of communicating throughout the faculty as the superior alternative. Everything else will follow.  

Your comments: Research the impact of covid-19 on different staff groups (male, female, LGBTQ, international, BAME, etc) and mitigate against what comes up for vulnerable groups of staff.

 

Our response: Bullying and harassment are widely reported problems in HE.  We strongly believe that bullying and harassment need to be addressed and rooted out. In fact, there is a whole Objective dedicated to this: Objective 3: Address Bullying and Harassment Through Leadership. We are also hoping to obtain more granular data from central EDI about their Covid-19 survey for exactly the reason you mentioned -- to see what impacts this has had on marginalised groups. 

  

  

Your comments: Support young families, academics on all sorts of parental leave and especially maternity. Provide material support as London is so expensive and life here very difficult for young families.  

  

Your comments: Support women. The EDI initiative has absorbed the initiatives around equality for women and for LGBT staff into one framework alongside issues with minorities and BAME and now neither are particularly visible in this action plan or agenda and do not have their own space even though in a hard STEM faculty like ours this still sorely needed. Why is this.  

Our response: We recognise that different marginalised groups have different needs, and while many initiatives to address problems for one group will assist all groups (for example, combatting bullying and harassment), it is important to also keep tailored initiatives active and visible and we hope to do this. We would be happy to consider ideas for material support for families and raise them with central EDI -- perhaps you could give us some more detail on what kinds of initiatives you were thinking could be helpful. 

  

Your comments: UCL provision for support with childcare has traditionally  focused mainly on offering one central nursery on site, which is not very accessible for most and does not have the capacity to support all staff who need it. Participation in group discount schemes for nurseries where people live, would be more useful for a larger group and wider range of staff. (Targeting large providers that have branches all around London and the suburbs ) 

The on site nursery provision only caters to nursery aged children, yet childcare continues to be a concern up until secondary school. Supporting staff with after school schemes and childcare provision when travelling for work would also be really helpful and enable parent participation in networking opportunities and research visits or conferences.  

Recommend working with the PACT initiative to reach a larger audience of parents around UCL and canvass them for their opinions as the landscape on childcare and nursery provision is constantly evolving. 

 

Our response: We totally recognise this is a big issue for equality.  This is bigger than our Faculty. UCL is now looking at better childcare provision and different modes to achieve this and it has committed to look into this to try to serve better the UCL community. We will pass on this comment to the Central EDI team, which is the one leading this activity. 

Respondent 11 

Your comments: Maybe you could mention the black feminist scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw when you mention intersectionality (instead of the definition from Merriam-Webster). 

Foster a "sense of belonging" is repeated many times. But it is never mentioned to what. I think that it is the important bit. Minorities are used to not belonging. And they may not want to belong to the dominant group (see dangers of assimilationist approaches highlighted by Rubin's domino theory and also how trans people have been left behind although they initiated the Gay Rights Movement in the late 60s). 

  

Our response: Thank you for pointing out the importance of crediting Crenshaw with the definition of intersectionality; we'll make that change. We agree that the concept of belonging needs careful interrogation; you are right to raise that issue and note that belonging can be conflated with assimilation in ways that are unhelpful and unhealthy.  In no uncertain terms we refer here to ‘belonging’ in the sense of fully occupying your rightful place in the place you work, creating meaningful connections and living your working life feeling respected and safe in your individual choices, to make your voice heard and your contributions to our shared mission. 

  

Your comments: The minority groups need to be better identified (essential for an intersectional approach). I am surprised and saddened that the LGBTQI+ community is not mentioned as part of the EDI Strategy (in spite of alarming data https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02013-9).  

Our response: Thank you. We deliberately went for broad-spectrum actions (which are the vast majority of the Strategy). However, it is entirely true that there are groups that are highlighted in the document and whilst others are not, and in hindsight, this is a reflection of the writing and discussions, as it emerged organically and was not done by design or with the intent to exclude anyone. Following this specific piece of feedback, we will work to highlight the particular position of different marginalised groups further -- we appreciate it can be unhelpful to conflate categories sometimes. This also includes the LGBTQ+ community and we are keen to work with minoritized groups in the Faculty to include specific actions relevant to these groups that might be missing.  We will be contacting respondents highlighting this issue independently to work together on this. 

  

Your comments: Give the opportunity to the minorities to organise themselves (with non mixed meetings/bords - like we have in our department ) and escalade their remarks. The draft justly mentions the need to listen to minorities. This listening has to keep going. It has to be a priority. It is a pre-requisite to the sense of belonging.  

  

Our response: Thank you. Nothing in this document prevents people from self-organising and we think this is incredibly important. We think that support and action groups for members of marginalised communities is a great idea – we hope that staff feel empowered to start any groups they feel the need for; we are happy to support this and actually, we are very much looking forward to this. We also understand that we need to keep seeking, and listening to, meaningful feedback over time.   

  

Your comments: Increase the visiblity of minorities (inviting more under-represented groups in department seminars, organising career events, working in collaboration with existing charities). 

Our response: These are good suggestions of things to focus more on; there are specific actions in our Strategy Document that support and encourage visibility and increased representation of minoritized groups and we'll make an effort to increase our activities along these lines. 

Respondent 12 

Summarised at the request of the respondent: Postgraduate students who are struggling with mental health often face financial burdens as well, due to seeking private assistance instead of malingering on NHS waiting lists.  

Our response: Thank you for raising this issue -- mental health conditions are so often made even more difficult by bureaucratic and financial difficulties that come hand in hand with them. We'll feed this upwards to central EDI and explore what kinds of supports might be developed. One of our short-term actions in the Faculty could also be helpful in these situations:  

“Identify a single point of contact for the Faculty to provide ‘best practice’ examples and clear guidance and support for disabled students, staff and their line managers, and to provide clear guidance for the access to work scheme (and reasonable adjustments/other potential support), to potential supervisors and employees. Report to the Dean quarterly”. 

Respondent 13 

  

Your comments: We discussed the document in a departmental meeting and the comments below summarise the views that were heard during this meeting.  

Overall we found the document a very good effort to the right direction and full of great ideas. The following suggestions are ideas on what to do about certain aspects and how to make the strategy more effective. 

  

-The document itself is rather long. it is also not clear at certain parts how to bring  the ideas to practice 

-The strategy should link to UCL tradition and to current practices.  UCL has a great tradition of being a liberal university. The strategy should evolve from this tradition. 

-On widening participation and inclusion (p.7).  we should be clear of what the minority groups at the various levels are.  The minority groups among the students are not the same as in the staff.  Metrics should help define this. 

-It was not clear how the proposed Faculty Promotions committee and the appraisals (p.8) would link to, improve and enhance what is already happening. At least in our department, appraisals are happening annually, following college guidance. 

-We were not sure about the PhD supervisory committees.  Again in our Department we have 2 supervisors per student plus the graduate tutor.  We will need to ensure staff is not getting overloaded. Where we can do something is to ensure that PDRAs do not depend on only their line manager but have someone else to talk to as well. In our department we are considering the idea of mentors for PDRAs. 

- We would definitely like support with the Athena Swan submissions. 

  

In terms of actions some suggestions are below. Where we feel we need to improve is recruitment from minority groups at higher levels. Some suggestions are: 

- We did discuss the idea of positive discrimination in recruitment. It is controversial but seems to be bringing results.  One Danish university for example has opened positions just for female applicants. https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/06/men-need-not-apply-university-set-open-jobs-just-women 

-Bring high profile recruits from minority groups in the Departments of the Faculty, that will take leadership positions and act as role models at all levels, from undergraduate students to staff and future recruits 

-We can do the same when recruiting for members of our various advisory and industrial boards. 

-We can have fair recruitment specialists. These can be current staff undertaking training. 

  

Also 

-Have 'Diversity supplements', contributions from college in support of large grants to be improve diversity (e.g. by recruiting minority researchers). 

-The Faculty can have PDRA fellowships to support researchers from underrepresented groups. 

  

Our response: We took a deliberate decision to create a programme for 10-15 years of work and after internal consultation, many felt that it was necessary to present our EDI Strategy in full so people could appreciate the work ahead of us and the complexity of the task. The objectives are shorter but the list of potential actions is long.  

We also like your idea of linking this to UCL's history. 

Data-driven EDI has merits but can also hide a number of issues (and data collection can be poor/biased/manipulated).  We know they can conceal a disparate number of experiences under broad categories, and hope that we would always use metrics with that caveat in mind. 

We propose the use of EDI metrics as one of the ways to assess Departmental and Faculty ‘performance’ in a number of areas pertinent to EDI.  However, these metrics that we are proposing are richer and more complex, centred on belonging, rather than diversity only, in order to capture in some way the experience of the people in our Faculty.  We need to be able to hold our own Departments and Faculty accountable, and these EDI metrics are just one way of creating a deeper and more insightful picture of the life of our Faculty.   

As far as appraisals, we know that unfortunately, not all departments are operating to UCL standard practice; we'd also like to improve that baseline of practice. We note the very valid concern of staff getting overloaded with PhD supervisory committees, as well as the need for more SWAN support.  

  

As far as positive discrimination in recruitment, we need to work within University regulations and UK law.  There are also best practices and more modern ways of recruiting staff that we could use.  We are currently in the process of re-imagining our recruitment for a large number of positions that will open with UCL East and we are liaising with key stakeholders within the University in the process. 

 



 

Respondent 14 

Your comments: Perhaps a clearer description of what the EDI status of the Faculty would look like in 2030 if this plan has been successful? And how different is that to now? I realise that specific targets are not necessarily the way to go, but having some clear metrics by which to judge the ongoing and final success of this strategy could be really helpful. For example, there was an action point to develop specific plans to increase diversity by 2023, 2026 and 2030 - what's a good way to judge whether diversity has increased significantly? 

  

Our response: We agree that milestones and targets are important so we understand where we're going and how far we have left to go; these will be included in annual work plans. 

  

Your comments: Of the initiatives outlined in the document, how many of these are completely new ideas, and how many are schemes that have been in place previously? It'd be good to know what foundations are being built on and what has worked previously for improving EDI. 

  

Our response: Institutional memory for past EDI initiatives is not always clear, but going forward we'd like to be stringent about thinking about, and capturing, lessons learned.  Many of these ideas are implemented locally up to a certain extend.  This documented emerged as part of a long consultation process and it reflects the thinking and experiences of different individuals in way that is scalable to the whole Faculty and provides coherence. 

  

Your comments: Given the current climate, I think visibility of the faculty's EDI efforts is a top priority, so that staff and students all know that they belong to a faculty that is very supportive of them.  

  

Our response: We agree that visibility is very important -- we are working to get our website online, as well as other methods of communicating. 

  

Your comments: Finding ways to incentivise ALL senior staff to engage in EDI issues is key in my view. It shouldn't just be something that people can either ignore or pay lip-service to, but something more integral to everyone's role. If all the leadership engage that sets a really good example and culture. Also it's important that it's not only those who are negatively impacted by a lack of EDI that get involved in supporting EDI, but everyone. One of the biggest challenges here is that senior people are already overstretched with their research and teaching commitments, so finding a way to positively reward EDI activities and to reduce the pressure of other commitments. Does the Faculty have any funding it could award to 'EDI champions' (e.g., £2-3K discretionary money)? 

  

Our response: We agree that we need everyone -- not just those negatively impacted by marginalisation -- to work on EDI issues, and that this should be demonstrably led by senior managers and rewarded and recognised in workload models. We have asked departments to create Deputy Heads of Department for EDI (or equivalent, depending on local structure) roles and were very clear that the time for this role should be allocated out of their current workload. We don’t have the capacity to reward individuals with extra EDI funds for EDI work and to be completely honest, this does not make us entirely comfortable: we would argue that this requires careful consideration as any ‘reward’ for EDI work cannot go only to senior members of staff, who are very busy but also, very privileged compared to other staff groups and students.  Any action we undertake, we will completely take responsibility for, but it must foster equity and not exacerbate inequity. 

Respondent 15 

  

Your comments: As mentioned earlier, bundling all equality areas under an EDI catch-all runs the risk of dilution and the appearance of being disingenuous. Making sure that everyone is kept up to date on its progress and invited to feedback regularly.  

  

Our response:  We definitely agree that we need to ensure periodic avenues for feedback, and that we take this feedback on board. We know that umbrella terms – like EDI -- have sometimes been used in the past to conceal very different needs of the communities included under them. Our aim is to disaggregate data and show disparate experiences wherever needed and address specific needs. 

  

Your comments: It's a great start, but I would like to see a greater representation of views, not just senior academics of a handful of students. We'll need to capture the views of new students to determine whether their views of UCL Engineering matches what we're aiming to convey. Once we have a clear action plan, we should be shouting it from the rooftops and leading the way for others to follow.  

Our response: We agree that a much broader slice of the Faculty (both staff and students) needs to be actively engaged and have their feedback heard.  Our action plan will be available from our website and we will be accountable for its implementation. 

  

Your comments: 1. Separate the EDI strategy into its component parts (i.e disability, gender, LGBTQ+, race, religion and belief) so that they can each receive the attention and the expertise that they deserve. 2. Publically publish existing data and make a firm committment to improve using KPIs. 3. Actively promote allyship and a recognision that marginalised groups cannot affect change on their own. 4. Organise frequent Town Halls and listening events. 5. Mandatory training for all staff (even if it's online) similar to the health & safety training that we're all expected to undergo. 6. Reduce the strategy down to 5 years followed by another one, 5 years later. Few people will be around in 10 years to see the strategy come to fruition or ensure that those accountable at the start see it through to the end. 7. Make the reporting of any incidence easy to do, and ensure that all complaints are followed-up and acted upon. 

  

Our response: Thank you for this feedback; we agree that it's important to disaggregate data (and to be public with it). We hope to introduce more content on allyship as well. The mandatory online EDI training is run via central EDI but we can supplement this with material in our own local inductions. We note your suggestion about town halls in agreement. Regarding reporting an incident, UCL has had for over a year the Report and Support online system, where issues can be reported (including anonymously) – we aim to raise the visibility of this platform. 

On the wider strategy front: This is a strategy for everyone and it is necessarily higher level than some people would like. It is also a very, very comprehensive document. We are hoping that our staff and students will be empowered to self-organise and advocate for their own communities to advance certain aspects of our agenda.  We have already supported the creation of certain staff networks and we make a commitment to entirely support and fully work in partnership with staff and student groups to make the change these communities need. 

We stand by our commitment ‘Nothing about us, without us’. So, tell us. The most powerful way to enact change for you and your communities is to be a critical friend and a force for good. Establish a relationship with us and tell us what we need to do. What would make your life better. We have opened up with this document multiple communication channels and we hope to see people taking up an element of personal responsibility in advancing our strategy. Come forward. 

  

Your comments: SMART Objectives is an absolute must! Everything in the document needs to have a timetable, tangible actions and clarity about who is delivering what. An action plan is referenced on pg. 5 which is great, but listing short, medium and long term objectives doesn't help to focus attention and minds if we don't know whether we're talking weeks, months or years. Widening participation is mentioned in the strategy, so we must ensure that a broad mix of academics, 3rd year students and PS staff also accompany these visits if young people are truly going to see themselves represented by those attending. 

Our response: We agree that targets and timetables would be useful to keep us on track and will look to implement these. Regarding WP, we agree that a wide range of people should be involved to provide the greatest representation.