The Open University: Diverse Company for Education

Open UniWe caught up with Jiten Patel, Acting Head of Equality, Diversity and Information Rights at The Open University to catch his thoughts on seeing his University reign as The Diverse Company for Education at The Excellence in Diversity Awards 2015, here’s what Jiten had to say:

The whole table erupted! It was the second win on our table that evening!! How fabulous to see the expressions of delight of the faces of my friends and colleagues; this award was truly about the part played the many individuals from across the University who work ceaselessly to bring alive the University’s mission and core values. I would like to thank the staff and students at The Open University; it is humbling to work with such amazing people who made it possible for us to win the award.

How did you feel about the other shortlisted nominees within your category?

I felt it was a great privilege to be amongst organisations striving to make equality, diversity and inclusion an integral part of the way the organisation operates. I know, personally, people from two of the other shortlisted nominees and had no doubts whatsoever about their commitment and dedication. In particular, I have worked with Patrick Johnson, University of Manchester, for at least the last 10 years and have respect for his work, so it was an honour to be in the same shortlisted category as these colleagues.

Where are you going to go from here with your work?

Well, our journey continues from strength to strength; we’ve just been awarded the Carer’s Scotland Kite Mark, the first Higher Education Institution in Scotland to have achieved this accolade. Currently we are refreshing our equality scheme for 2016-2020 and it’s really great that we have so many senior people who are willing to push forward changes to really bring alive our mission of social justice. Even more impressive is the fact that our new Vice-Chancellor, Peter Horrocks CBE, has taken on the mantle of being sponsor of Equality Diversity and Inclusion and he will be appointing Champions for the Protected Characteristics from amongst his direct reports. The campaign for Equality is being led from the top of the University.

The Open University WinningWhat does Diversity & Inclusion mean to The Open University?

Equality, diversity and inclusion are inherent in The Open University’s mission and core values. Winning this award just reaffirms our commitment to social justice and inclusion; to make higher education accessible to all people, especially those who were not able to study at this level previously. People studying part-time and working at the same time demonstrate that they are overcoming barriers to be more successful and fulfilled. This is why we are so keen to ensure that our students are not adversely affected by proposed changes to funding structures. We are passionate that Part Time Matters! Please support #PartTimeMatters on Twitter

Where does this rank within your Diversity & Inclusion achievements?

This university has done amazing things! This award ranks alongside our awards for Athena Swan (awarded by the Equality Challenge Unit) and Project Juno (awarded by the Institute of Physics) specifically looking at the development of women in STEM subjects. We are working across the range of protected characteristics including the setting up of highly successful positive action programmes for minority ethnic and disabled staff to advising Government on LGBT issues. In achieving this award there is public recognition for the University’s to address and reduce inequalities. We would be the first ones to recognise that we still need to do much more and it is that spirit which drives our innovation.

What were your thoughts on the awards, did you enjoy it?

Everyone on our table, without exception, loved the event and was, of course delighted to be there on the night. It was an opportunity to celebrate the vast array of people and organisations working exceptionally hard to make this world better for everyone. Our thanks to Paul and his great team for paying attention to every little detail. In particular, I could see that you had acted on feedback from previous events to make this night even more spectacular. The blend of formal (awards presentations) and informal (music, dance, etc) aspects meant that everyone was engaged throughout the evening; even after a hard day at work, everyone was full of energy and enthusiasm. It was inspiring!