Crofts, M. and Pilkington, A. (2012) The politics of equality and diversity in Higher Education. Paper presented to: 5th Equality, Diversity and Inclusion International Conference 2012, Toulouse, France, 23 - 26 July 2012.
The aim of this paper is to provide an exploration of the perspectives relating to equality, diversity and anti-discrimination legislation from multi-actors at different levels of seniority and with varying involvement with equality issues and diversity management within a Higher Education institution. The role of management has been regarded as key in providing the leadership required and sending out the message that equality and diversity issues are significant in order to ensure that legislation is adhered to, not just by the letter, but also the spirit. “This top-down commitment and support was regarded by line managers as extremely important for leading the cultural change which was felt necessary in order to achieve equality for all...” (Greene, A. et al (2005) p36) The same may be said of the role of management within Higher Education Institutions where “[t]he extent and importance of managers in higher education has increased considerably in recent years as UK higher education has expanded…and the commitment of senior managers to equality of opportunity is clearly of considerable significance…” (Deem, R et al (2005) p82) Management perspectives of the meaning of equality therefore have an impact on establishing the priorities for an institution thereby determining how equality and diversity issues are dealt with. In addition, a comparison between management perspectives of the meaning and scope of equality and other members of staff as well as students is significant as these perceptions may differ depending on the role and status of the individual. Previous research has found that “[t]here appeared to be a considerable gulf between the views of staff…and the perceptions of their senior managers.” (Deem, R et al (2005) p6) Differing perspectives of equality may affect the relationships between various actors within the institution and how the politics of equality and diversity are managed. Of particular interest are the views and perceptions of equality and diversity practitioners within Higher Education. Their position and role within the case study institution is unique as they are neither regarded as part of the academic departmental structure of the institution, nor part of the management structure and are therefore poised somewhere in between. Once again, their positioning within the institution, their role and status will be explored and the impact on the politics of diversity management considered. This research aims to further understanding of how perceptions of equality and diversity, and the role of equality and diversity practitioners, affect the management of equality and diversity within Higher Education and implications for the practice of equality will be considered