Structures and Processes

An inclusive institution will have processes and structures that actively consider equality and diversity, so that inclusive practice becomes consistent and routine. A systematic approach ensures that inclusivity becomes part of the culture of the institution, and that students and staff are not receiving ‘mixed messages’ which may undermine genuine inclusion. Senior leaders have key roles in driving inclusive cultures and processes at all levels of the institution (UUK and NUS, 2019). Academic and professional services staff are essential for the implementation of inclusive practice on the ground. In an inclusive institution, everyone will be aware of and engage with relevant policies and apply them to their local contexts. Inclusive policies and documentation are written in clear transparent language, and processes are straightforward for staff and students to engage with.

Examples of structures and processes that underpin inclusivity may include:

Establishment of Key Performance Indicators that relate to widening participation (e.g., retention, awarding gaps).
These may include institutional strategic guidance documents such as Education Strategies or Vision Statements. Externally available datasets or documents such as HESA data or Institutional Access & Participation Plans may also be relevant.
Accessible and transparent programme data, integrated into routine quality processes.
Where feasible, to enable evidence-driven interventions, the use of dynamic data dashboards can give programme teams local accountability. This allows for early intervention to address any identified awarding gap or student retention issues.
Developing and reviewing policies that emphasise inclusive practice.
Effective policies embed good practice across an institution, and are best developed in partnership with students, academic and professional services staff. This may include developing new policies or codes of practice, or updating existing ones to ensure inclusion is embedded.
Building staff and student awareness and understanding of institutional policies.
Engaging students and staff in the development of institutional policies builds inclusive cultures. Inclusive communication is clear and transparent and understandable by all, particularly those unfamiliar with academic terminology or communicating in a second language.
Ensure learning environments are accessible.
Teaching environments, both physical and digital, must reflect current legal accessibility standards. Inclusive programmes will design out the need for individual adjustments where possible, by adopting a more inclusive approach for the whole cohort. Where possible, students with reasonable adjustments are active partners in ensuring accessibility and given autonomy and dignity in decisions about their own learning environments.
Ensure equal student access to resources, factoring in digital inequality.
Many students cannot afford specialist materials, software or costs associated with field work or placements. Students may also lack quality study space at home, or not have access to an appropriate computer to work on. Inclusive programmes will consider financial implications of activities and offer targeted support or alternatives where appropriate.