Culture, equality and inclusion

We are striving to become ‘Inclusive Sussex’. All members of our community will have equal access to opportunities, and we will enable and support them to fully achieve their potential and contribute to the success and advancement of the University. Find out about the work we are doing at Sussex and the ways we involve and support our community.

Our Inclusive Sussex vision

Find out about our vision to become Inclusive Sussex. Reducing inequalities and celebrating diversity allows us all to thrive. We can achieve more together than we can apart.

This equality, diversity and inclusion strategy sets out the steps we will take to become an Inclusive Sussex. This is a collective endeavour across management, staff and students which sets out to create a fully inclusive campus by and for our whole community.

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About EDI and building an Inclusive Sussex

  • Video transcript

    David Ruebain: About EDI and building an Inclusive Sussex

    Video transcript (6m 32s)

    Hello, everybody. My name is David Ruebain. I'm the Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Culture, Equality and Inclusion in Sussex University.

    What is EDI?

    I thought it would be useful to give some definitions of at least what I mean by equality, diversity and inclusion and others will have different definitions.

    For me, equality is a quasi-legal concept which requires fairness, and much law focuses on equality of opportunity, although some also focuses on outcomes as well.

    Diversity, on the other hand, is a recognition of the benefit, the inherent benefit that difference brings to whatever is the business of an organisation, whether it's teaching and learning, research and knowledge exchange in universities, fire services, health care, banking, anything whatsoever that there is a value, an inherent value in diversity. Or another way of putting it is that heterogeneity is better than homogeneity in whatever it is that you are trying to do.

    And inclusion is the process of ensuring that diversity, people with different identities, can thrive rather than just being allowed to fit in just as much as they can. So that is about focusing on the architecture, on the environment, on the ecology of an organisation, everything it does, how it does it, what the buildings are like, what the practises are like to maximise the chances of everybody being fully able to participate.

    University responsibilities

    Moving on to universities, we have a range of specific responsibilities which intersect. We have certain duties relating to academic freedom and freedom of speech, which are shown in the first two boxes. We have the anti-discrimination and public sector equality duties, and then there are related obligations which apply concerning hate speech, harassment and public safety, which apply not just to universities but including universities. And all of these provide a fairly complicated matrix within which organisations, like universities, have to operate.

    Key EDI issues in higher education

    I thought I would just flag some of the more recent EDI issues which many universities have faced, and you'll see them there. Ongoing issues of racism, conflicts around transphobia, sexual misconduct, bullying and insecurity, conflicts around Israel-Palestine and anti-Semitism, early career research precarity and so on.

    And of course, these are all key issues from all universities and for colleagues working in them as well and ones which have to be addressed in one way or another.

    Mental health

    Mental health is another growing area of challenge worsened, it seems, by the pandemic.

    And so universities like Sussex have a range of initiatives designed to address them.

    Inclusive Sussex targets

    I've put on the screen there the current targets contained within Inclusive Sussex, which is the University's strategic plan. 

    How is Sussex doing?

    How are we doing? These are just my reflections, and not just mine - those I've learnt from talking to colleagues. In some respects, we are doing well.

    One of the limbs of Inclusive Sussex, Flexible Sussex, is pretty much sector leading, at least in terms of its ethos. We have slightly higher than average representation of black and minoritised ethnic staff and female professors, slightly better than comparators in our gender pay gap though worse than the English average. Our awarding gaps, our BAME awarding gaps are slightly better than sector averages.

    It's very clear to me that there's a strong community and a strong affection for the institution. We have pockets of excellent practise in different parts of the University and in individual Schools and Professional Services directorates, and there is very strong support from the whole community, as far as I can tell, for EDI work.


    However, there are areas where we’re doing poorly. We have a poor disability awarding gap. We have an old estate and old IT infrastructure, which makes things very difficult for many people, although there is a significant planned investment in train. Our staff survey response rates are low and some of the responses are challenging and there's ongoing work that we have to do to address that, especially regarding trust, trust in the leadership, engagement with the University and around bullying and harassment. And of course, we have ongoing challenging industrial relations around key difficulties in areas which need to be addressed.

    Current proposals

    So finally, just to flag some of the changes in the refreshed, Inclusive Sussex strategy, we've already decided to have a fifth pillar. We will implement a clearer theory of change, which focuses on a structural approach to discrimination, disadvantage and underrepresentation. We will look at resources and we will look at how the work is overseen and governed. There will be, and it is in development, a listening and allyship programme piloted. We are establishing a religion and belief forum and there will be other initiatives as well.

    I hope some of that was useful and interesting, and I very much welcome any thoughts you may have about any and all of this work.

    Thanks very much.

Our Antiracist Pledge

We pledge that we will seek to be Antiracist by making all necessary changes to the education, research and administrative activities of the University. Through diligent, sustained antiracist work we will move towards being an inclusive university that genuinely celebrates and reflects diversity.

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