Just 40% of Durham’s teaching staff attended compulsory anti-discrimination training

By Еlizabeth McBride

Data obtained by Palatinate through a Freedom of Information request reveals that just 40% of teaching staff and 52% of all staff members have attended the University’s compulsory anti-discrimination training.

The online course “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion” was launched in January 2021 and forms part of what Durham describes as “a comprehensive, challenging and context-specific Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion training programme”.

The training covers the role and responsibility of staff in the University to identify and prevent stereotyping, bias, and discrimination. Yet, a year after the course’s launch, when compared to the latest HESA employment data, many staff members have not completed the programme – despite Durham classing it as compulsory.

“We are working to build an environment at Durham University where equality, diversity and inclusion is valued”

durham university

Durham University has previously received criticism for its approach to inclusion and diversity. In 2021 The Sunday Times ranked Durham the seventh-worst university in the UK for social inclusion – this was, however, an improvement from 2020 when Durham was the second-worst.

In November the institution appointed its first Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Durham stressed to Palatinate that the EDI training given to staff is just one of many initiatives being undertaken. Others initiatives include an online Report and Support tool through which students and staff can report unwanted behaviour and seek support.

While this training was made compulsory for all staff at its launch, staff may have undertaken other EDI training previously.

A Durham University spokesperson said: “We are working to build an environment at Durham University where equality, diversity and inclusion is valued and difference celebrated, and where everyone feels comfortable to be themselves, to belong and to flourish.

“We will not tolerate sexual violence and misconduct within our community and we have an extensive programme of activity aimed at prevention of sexual violence and misconduct.”

“The people who need these training courses the most are the least likely to attend”

jonah graham – dsu welfare and liberation officer

Other issues with the University’s EDI approach include how prior to this academic year the University could not monitor how many students completed the consent course – despite the course being made compulsory in 2017 “to have the most impact in preventing sexual misconduct”.

The Undergraduate EDI representative for Archeology told Palatinate: “It’s a shame that staff don’t understand how imperative a course like this is. It truly makes all the difference.

“I’ve seen it myself in my department, which I would argue is definitely a strong department for caring about EDI and Mental Health and I say that as an active representative. But when teachers engage properly with students it creates a symbiotic relationship wherein turn all students feel safe to be involved as well.”

Concerning the findings, Durham Students’ Union’s Welfare and Liberation Officer, Jonah Graham, stated: “If these findings are true, the weak attendance of training is discouraging.

“If the University is properly committed to culture change this needs to happen at all levels of the institution. The Respect Commission and hiring of the new Pro-Vice-Chancellor of Equality Diversity and Inclusion are positive steps but more work needs to be done on building commitment from all staff to make Durham a more inclusive space – especially among student-facing and managerial staff.

“University should be a place for comprehensive learning – including on sexual and gendered violence. The people who need these training courses the most are the least likely to attend. The University must take note of the Culture Commission, its findings, and recommendations and act in the best interest of culture change. I urge the University to continue pushing for sector-leading work.

“To facilitate change the University must move away from palatable ideas of respect towards a nuanced self-critical and open-minded approach.” 

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