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University of Sheffield: benchmarking for culture change to promote equality and diversity

The University of Sheffield has a programme Excellence through inclusion with the goal of ‘a motivated and diverse University community, where staff and students demand the highest standards from each other and work together to maximise the benefits of difference'.


Through the Equality and Diversity Strategy and Action Plans the aim is to create a corporate culture that is inclusive at all levels and in every system and process.


The University says that it has a large statistical archive of data covering disability, for both staff and students. The challenge was to present this information in a way which was meaningful and will effect change. Championed by an academic head of department, the University developed an innovative way of presenting equality and diversity facts to give heads an overview of their department. Through this heads of department could identify areas of strength and vulnerability and compare their current snapshot to previous years.


Ownership of metrics


Heads of department and directors of the central professional services were provided with a number of key metrics:


  • Snapshot setting out the current position of each Faculty or service (with internal benchmarking)
  • Parity plot for each individual planning unit, where an input variable is compared with an output variable (for example applications and appointments)
  • Direction of travel plot for individual planning units, showing last year's performance normalised by the average


Each planning unit was asked to consider the implications of the data and comment on the reasons behind them. They were also asked to consider what they could be doing better in the future and their plans for this.

The disability profile of staff is set out in the Annual Staffing Report and an equality profile was carried out on RAE (2008).


Impact and feed back into policy


All the information is taken into account in University policy formulation and to develop specific equality training. Senior staff were also asked to consider the ongoing use and development of equality metrics.


The work also contributed to the University's Equality Impact Assessment.