Public Sector Equality Duty

Public Sector Equality Duty

The University of Aberdeen commits to taking bold, ambitious and effective action to support its work on equality, diversity and inclusion and to create a safe, respectful culture in which its community can work and study.  This includes proactively challenging inappropriate behaviour and systemic inequalities. 

The Equality Act 2010 requires the University through the Public Sector Equality Duty to give due regard to the need to:. 

  1. Eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other conduct prohibited by the Act.
  2. Advance equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.
  3. Foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not.

The Act covers staff and students (including prospective staff and students) and protects them in relation to nine protected characteristics:

  1. Age                                                                   
  2. Disability
  3. Gender re-assignment
  4. Marriage and civil partnership
  5. Pregnancy and maternity
  6. Race
  7. Religion or belief (including lack of belief)
  8. Sex
  9. Sexual orientation

On this page you will find reports dating back to 2013 which detail the steps the University has taken to address the requirements of the Public Sector Equality Duty.

Equality Mainstreaming and Outcomes Report 2021


I am delighted to be introducing the University of Aberdeen’s Mainstreaming and Equality Outcomes report 2021.

This report draws together the progress made in relation to mainstreaming Equality, Diversity and Inclusion since 2019 and provides an action plan which reflects our ambitions for the future.  The previous two years have seen a significant level of activity in breadth and scope across the University on embedding the principles of inclusion.

We were determined to position equality at the heart of our new strategic plan – Aberdeen 2040  - which we launched in February 2020.  I am delighted that Inclusive is one of the four strategic themes which we will focus on over the 20 year lifespan of our plan, indeed it is our view that creating a culture in which all staff and students feel a sense of belonging, can be themselves at work and in their studies and can participate freely and safely is critical to our overall success as a sustainable, international university. 

Aberdeen 2040 was formed through a highly participative process with all staff, students and stakeholders invited to contribute to its development.  The overarching principle of our foundational purpose of being “open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others” has been reignited, with that premise guiding our decision-making and approaches.

This has served us well in our response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Taking a fully inclusive approach, recognising the specific needs of groups of staff and students and individuals, has allowed us to offer a broad range of support to staff and students on blended learning and remote working and to respond to the considerable challenges the pandemic has presented.

It was critical to focus on and embed our work on inclusion during this time and we have, through an enhanced strategic Equality, Diversity and Inclusion governance structure, continued not only to progress initiatives, but to substantially enhance knowledge and understanding.  The Black Lives Matter movement accelerated our work to develop an antiracist culture and this has been and will be a key priority as we take action to tackle racial harassment which we recognise is systemic in Higher Education.  We must and we will continue to act to stamp this out through working in partnership with staff, students, the wider community and at a national level.  Understanding white privilege and how this has shaped our sector has been a key discussion and action point for us in relation to this.

In addition, we have taken action to tackle gender-based violence, substantially enhance digital accessibility, promote gender equality with the University’s first Silver departmental Athena Swan award being achieved, promote and enhance mental health and wellbeing support, and at every stage bring the lived and intersectional experience of staff and students to the core of our work and thought-processes.

I am looking forward to continuing and expanding our work on inclusion in line with our Aberdeen 2040 aspirations and values and to listening and learning from all groups in the University and beyond to deliver our goal of achieving a culture which embraces and responds effectively and proactively  to our diverse community.

Professor George Boyne
Principal and Vice-Chancellor
University of Aberdeen


Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Aberdeen is about much more than legal compliance.  Rather, the University has sought to ensure that inclusiveness is rooted at the heart of its thinking, decision-making, and core purpose and values.  The University recognises that creating a culture which is not only ‘inclusive’ but is proactively anti-racist, anti-HBTphobic, anti-disablist, anti-misogynistic for example, takes willpower, action and strong leadership.  Empowering and enabling meaningful conversations on these topics is critical and the University is building at pace on the work detailed in previously published Mainstreaming Equality reports.

This report starts by outlining how the University has embedded Inclusivity in its strategic planning and goes on to demonstrate how an enhanced EDI governance structure is ensuring that the priorities as set out in our strategic plan are being delivered.  Following that, the University’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as it relates to EDI issues, is explained, demonstrating how the University recognised and supported significant challenges faced by staff and students at this time and how it continues to do so.  
This report goes on to set out the significant progress the University has made in mainstreaming equality since its last report in 2019.  Key, specific examples with information about impact and actions going forward are cited (these have been selected for this purpose as they demonstrate the holistic and embedded approach to EDI) under the key headings of the general duty of the Equality Act 2010 which are:

  • Eliminating unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
  • Fostering good relations between people from different groups
  • Advancing equality of opportunity

A summary is also provided on progress made in relation to the University’s Equality Outcomes which were developed through extensive consultation with staff, students, partners and stakeholders prior to the publication of the 2017 report. 

Following discussion with the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee (EDIC) the University has approved new, targeted Equality Outcomes (further information in Section 7.3) to align strongly with Aberdeen 2040, the Student Partnership Agreement, and other key strategic documents.  These new Outcomes will cover 2021 – 2025 and a report on the implementation of the outcomes will be presented in our next Equality Mainstreaming and Outcomes report in April 2023.  The new Equality Outcomes are:

  • Achieve the highest recognition in equality and diversity through achievement of awards in accreditation initiatives including Athena Swan, Race Equality Charter and Stonewall Workplace Equality Index
  • Tackle mental health stigma to improve outcomes and experiences for staff and students who have mental ill health 
  • Eliminate barriers which may present due to multiple intersectional protected characteristic identities 
  • Create an antiracist university by tackling racial harassment and fully embedding the recommendations of the Equality and Human Rights Commission report Tackling Racial Harassment: Universities Challenged (2019) and the Universities UK report Tackling Racial Harassment in HE (2020)
  • Create a culture where gender-based violence is eradicated within the University community and staff or students who do experience this can seek effective support
  • Eliminate barriers to learning, progression, promotion and physical accessibility for disabled staff and students by taking actions to continuously improve the working and learning environments for disabled staff and students 
  • Reduce the level of discrimination reported in the staff survey from 11% to 5% in 2022

The report focuses on the progress made in the two years since the publication of the last report which can be found on this webpage, along with the previous reports.

Information which was provided in our reports of 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019 will not be repeated in this report unless necessary. The actions set out in the 2019 report will be addressed and new actions for the period 2021 – 2023 set as appropriate. 

There are two appendices to this report.  An Equality Outcomes Action Plan can be found at Appendix 1.  Where actions are embedded in other action plans e.g. Gender Action Plan or Athena Swan, they will not be repeated in this report or in the action plan. Actions noted in this report are numbered according to their reference point in the Equality Outcomes Action Plan.  The employee information/data can be found in Appendix 2.   

This report is fully available to staff, students, visitors and other interested groups or individuals. It will be published on the University’s Equality and Diversity webpage and will be publicised to staff and students through the University’s communication channels e.g. Staff Ezine, Message of the Day, open sessions and newsletters.

Table 1: Table of acronyms and denotations


Full title


Advance HE


Arts, Humanities, Social Science, Business and Law


Aberdeen University Student Association


Black History Month


Blended Learning Implementation Task and Finish Group


British Sign Language


Campus Planning Group


Equality, Diversity and Inclusion


Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee


Equality and Human Rights Commission


Equality Impact Assessment


Equally Safe in HE Toolkit


Gateway to Medicine


Gender Based Violence


Gaelic Language Plan


Human Resources


HR Specialist Services Team


International Women’s Day


Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and encompassing all identities associated with the LGBT+ spectrum


North East Scotland College


Outcome Agreement


Policy and Resources Committee


Race Equality Charter


Race Equality Strategy Group


Robert Gordon University


Scottish Funding Council


School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition


Senior Management Team


Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths and and Medicine


University Management Group


Universities UK


Women’s Development Network


Women in Higher Education Network

Examples of Mainstreaming Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

The University of Aberdeen has developed a report outlining how it meets the legal requirement to mainstream equality into all of its functions.

More information can be found in the following documents:

Court Diversity and Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018

More information about our Court Diversity and compliance with the Gender Representation on Public Boards (Scotland) Act 2018 can be found here.

Gender Pay Gap

The University of Aberdeen has been regularly publishing its Gender Pay Gap to ensure commitment to eradicating any pay gaps and to help inform our policies and practices.

Equal Pay Report

As part of the Public Sector Equality Duty, the University has a duty to publish its gender pay gap information (every 2 years) and an Equal Pay statement (every four years). This is University’s fifth report and it is based on data obtained from the HR/Payroll System as at 31 August 2019.

Equality Outcomes – progress report and new outcomes

The University has agreed 7 Equality Outcomes, developed through a process of consultation and communication. The Outcomes will shape our equality activities over the next 2 years. Read more about our progress in meeting our outcomes.

The University has developed an action plan to continue to drive forward our work on delivering on our Equality Outcomes.

Read more about the Action Plan.

Staff and student information

The University collects and analyses equality profile data on staff and students which we use to inform policy and decision-making.

Find out more about our current statistics.


The University is delighted to have the opportunity to showcase the work it has been undertaking to progress EDI for its staff, students and external stakeholders since 2019.  

Aberdeen 2040, itself developed inclusively, has provided a clear strategic focus for the work on EDI and this has allowed EDIC to become a key decision-making body in the University.

Since the strategy was launched, of course the Covid-19 pandemic has brought inequalities in society into the headlines and the University is committed to not only supporting its own staff and students through this difficult time, but also to make its impact in the wider community to restore economic, social and cultural prosperity to the region and to Scotland.

Our work on creating an antiracist culture is a priority and the commitment to cultural change is central to ensuring that staff and students feel a true sense of belonging in the University.  We will be accelerating our work to develop a Race Equality Strategy and tackling racism in all its forms.

The events and engagement activities over the previous two years have sought to elevate the issues related to EDI but also to celebrate our diverse community.  International Women’s Day, Black History Month, LGBT History Month and Disability History Month have all been celebrated but there is a clear commitment to ongoing engagement – the issues we seek to address and the culture we are creating deserve to be highlighted regularly and not confined to specific annual timescales.

Implementation of our commitment to eradicating gender-based violence is critical as is the Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy in tackling mental health stigma and creating the support services which met the needs of our diverse staff and student community.

An evidence-based approach is important as we learn and implement that learning through our Charter Marks – Athena Swan, Race Equality Charter, Pledges for Vulnerable Groups, Stonewall Workplace Equality Index.  Awards are not the end goal but the work behind them drives progress and highlights the challenges we need to tackle.

All the work described in this report contributes to the University’s mission:

Open to all and dedicated to the pursuit of truth in the service of others

and we look forward to continuing to pursue an active strategy of excellence in equality, diversity and inclusion through working in partnership with staff, students and the wider community.

Previous Equality Mainstreaming and Outcome Reports


The University’s interim report on the progress made in mainstreaming equality, diversity and inclusion between 2017 and 2019 as well as a report on the University’s Equality Outcomes can be found here: Mainstreaming Report 2019


The University detailed how it would continue to strive to achieve excellent practice in equality and inclusion in April's Mainstreaming and Equality Outcomes report.


The Scheme demonstrates the University’s continued commitment to fully embedding Equality and Diversity principles across the whole University. An interim report on progress with the Scheme was published in April 2015.


The University was delighted to launch its Equality Outcomes and Mainstreaming Equality Scheme in April 2013.