Equalities and Diversity
Universities should, of their very nature, be concerned about issues of equality and diversity. Where the law is concerned, the new equalities framework extends the law to make it illegal to discriminate on grounds of ‘religion or belief’. Universities clearly need to develop skills and strategies for ensuring that they stay within the law.
As employers, universities will, for example, need to navigate debates about exemptions allowed under ‘general occupational requirements’ (GORs), which allow discrimination in some cases where it can be shown to be necessary for a specific role or job. Some of these may be rooted in theological positions, which others may see as discriminatory, for example, because they are not open to women or to people in same sex relationships. These are contested issues and can sometimes lead to heated debate. Universities need to be prepared for engaging with their staff and students of faith in an informed and sensitive way, and, above all, to generate a safe environment for debate.