Appendix 9: Single Equality Scheme 2018-2021

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Aim of the Single Equality Scheme

Merton College aims to provide an inclusive environment which promotes equality, values diversity, and maintains a working, learning and social environment in which the rights and dignity of all its staff and students are respected to assist them in reaching their full potential. The College will work to remove any barriers which might deter people of the highest potential and ability from applying to study or work at Merton College.

Our aim is to embed equality in the culture and systems of the College by ensuring that policy making, service delivery and employment practice are all equality oriented.

The Single Equality Scheme, which supersedes previous Equal Opportunities Policies, sets out the specific objectives the College has set to promote equality, and reports progress against these objectives. It is published on the College website and is incorporated into the Staff Handbook; Fellows and Lecturers’ Handbook; and the College Handbook (for junior members).

About Merton College

Merton College, the first fully self-governing College in the University, was founded in 1264 by Walter de Merton. Today it is one of the 38 independent, self-governing colleges of the University of Oxford. It is also a Registered Charity, under the Charity Commission.

From the initial foundation of twenty male Fellows, Merton has expanded over the years to a diverse community which today comprises 290 undergraduates, 300 graduates, 69 Governing Body Fellows, 47 Lecturers across a range of academic disciplines supported by 108 non-academic staff, plus 16 casual staff.

The College’s aims for the public benefit include achieving the highest outcomes in education, learning and research at national and international level.  This in turn requires a firm commitment to equality of opportunity, so that the College considers every possible source of talent.

College Governance and the Single Equality Scheme

It is the responsibility of the Governing Body to provide the mechanisms and resources through which the College’s strategic objectives for equality and diversity can be delivered. To support this work, the College established an Equality Forum in June 2011. Its remit is to:

  • consider all existing and emerging equality legislation with a view to identifying relevant issues, which are then translated into key College policies for approval by the Governing Body;
  • facilitate consultation with specific groups of staff and students;
  • identify equality-related training needs of specific groups of staff and students;
  • provide monitoring of key strategic issues; and
  • draft publications for approval by the Governing Body as appropriate.

The Committee is chaired by the Warden and convened by the Senior Tutor with the following other members: the Domestic Bursar, the Principal of the Postmasters, the Chaplain, a Fellow, the Equality Advisor, the Academic Registrar, a College Lecturer, two JCR representatives drawn from the five JCR Equality Reps, two MCR representatives drawn from the Welfare Reps and Women’s Officer, two members of staff from different departments, and an external member. It meets once per term and reports to the Governing Body to which it makes a formal report once a year.

All College Committees are responsible for ensuring that this Scheme is embedded in their duties and functions in relation to both students and staff.

The Senior Tutor (with respect to academic matters) and the Domestic Bursar (with respect to non-academic matters) are responsible for the day to day implementation and delivery of the College’s strategic objectives for equality and diversity in accordance with the guidance attached to this policy.

The Domestic Bursar also has primary responsibility for facilitating the accessibility of the College’s buildings for disabled users.

The Harassment Advisors may provide informal advice in the first instance to any member of staff or student prior to bringing any complaint or grievance about harassment.

Publication and Dissemination of the Single Equality Scheme

The Single Equality Scheme is published on the College website and is incorporated into the Staff Handbook; Fellows and Lecturers’ Handbook; and the College Handbook (for junior members).

Merton’s approach to equality is outlined to new members of College as part of induction. For junior members, this means that equality awareness is included in Freshers’ talks and events. Line managers are responsible for covering equality within induction for non-academic staff.

Other areas within the College that need to take account of the College’s Single Equality Scheme include:

  • Partnership arrangements, where the College will make clear to partner organisations its duties under the Equality Act 2010.
  • Procurement, where the College will be expected to ensure that procurement processes take account of the requirements of this Scheme, and that contractors/suppliers understand and comply with the duties required of the College.
  • Communications, including the way that the College communicates to Fellows, students and staff, and potential applicants to study or work at Merton College (e.g. in hard copy, electronic media) in such a way that complies with the spirit of this scheme.
  • Managers and supervisors will be expected to be familiar with the provisions of the Scheme and its implications for the areas that they manage or supervise.

Single Equality Scheme: Legal Context

The Equality Act requires the College to publish relevant, proportionate information showing compliance with the Equality Duty on a yearly basis and also to publish at least one measurable objective that it thinks it should achieve to meet any of the three aims of the equality duty. The College achieves this through the Single Equality Scheme.

The Equality Act came into force in October 2010 and has two main purposes – to harmonise discrimination law and to strengthen the law to support progress on equality. Discrimination law protects people on the basis of the following eight protected characteristics: (in alphabetical order)

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

It also applies to marriage and civil partnerships, but only in respect of the requirement to have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination in employment. Merton College is subject to the Equality Act 2010 as an education provider, employer and provider of goods, facilities and services.

In providing a public function, the College has a general duty to:

  1. Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct which the Act prohibits;
  2. Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not;
  3. Foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and people who do not.

To address point 2 – that is, to advance equality of opportunity – the College must have due regard to the need to:

  • Remove or minimise disadvantages suffered by persons who share a relevant protected characteristic that are connected to that characteristic;
  • Take steps to meet the needs of persons who share a relevant protected characteristic that are different to the needs of the persons who do not share it;
  • Encourage persons who share a relevant protected characteristic to participate in public life or in any other activity in which participation by such persons is disproportionately low.

To address point 3 – that is, to foster good relations – the College must have due regard to the need to:

  • Tackle prejudice and
  • Promote understanding

As Merton College is part of the University of Oxford, it is important that this document should be read in conjunction with the University’s approach to Equality and Diversity.

Equality Objectives

Please see Appendix 1 for an overview of the College’s equality objectives.

Equality Information

The College will ensure that it publishes information to comply with its public equality sector duty.

See Appendix 2 for information on race, gender, and disability related to Merton staff and students.

Further Information

Further information about the College’s approach to equality for current or prospective staff can be obtained from the Human Resources Manager.

Further information about provisions for students can be obtained from the Academic Office.


The Single Equality Scheme is reviewed annually, and updated every three years.

Adopted 2012; updated 2015 and 2018