In 2016, the Scottish Funding Council published its Gender Action Plan (GAP), setting out ambitious targets for tackling the long-standing problem of gender imbalance within colleges and universities. It stipulates that, by 2030, no individual subject at a Scottish college or university shall have a gender imbalance greater than 75:25, and that the gap between overall male and female participation in undergraduate study shall be reduced to 5%.
Meaningful and sustained student participation throughout the GAP process will be key to ensuring that colleges and universities are bold and creative in their approaches, and put the needs of their students at the centre of the process. We are supporting Students’ Associations to get involved in the design and delivery of the institutional GAP, by promoting NUS Scotland’s Student Engagement in Gender Action Plans, a checklist packed with helpful advice, case studies and top tips. For additional ideas about meaningful student engagement in GAPs, have a look at the presentation we delivered in partnership with NUS Scotland at our 2017 conference.
sparqs has been invited to sit on the Scottish Funding Council (SFC)'s Gender Governance Group, which has a remit to advise the SFC on implementation of the plan. This means that we can make sure that students are seen as key stakeholders in the GAP process, at the heart of both design and delivery.
From 2017, each institution has been required to publish an annual GAP, detailing plans for meeting these – and interim – targets. A review of the first round of institutional GAPs indicated that, during the inaugural year, student engagement in the process was patchy and piecemeal.
Consequently, there is significant scope for improvement in this area and, in recognition of this, sparqs and NUS Scotland are currently delivering a joint project to develop student engagement in Gender Action Plans (GAPs), all the learning from which will be shared across the sector.
We were delighted with the response from institutions wishing to be involved in the pilot, with an incredible twenty-six institutions nominating themselves to take part. From this pool of applicants, a group of four colleges and four universities was selected to take part (see below for a list of participating institutions). Their key commitment is attendance at three events, the first of which took place on 29th January 2018, which will be followed by events in March and May. Each institution can send up to three delegates to each event - a student representative, a member of college/university staff with responsibility for contributing to the GAP and, where possible, a staff member whose role is to work with elected officers and support the work of the Students’ Association.
The project will develop knowledge and confidence in student engagement in GAPs by:
- Providing participating institutions with access to sectoral organisations that can support them in developing and enhancing student engagement in their GAP.
- Increasing knowledge in the sector about different approaches to student engagement.
- Providing a platform for gathering and showcasing best practice.
- Promoting opportunities for peer-to-peer support and learning.
The institutions taking part in the Gender Action Plan pilot project are:
- City of Glasgow College
- North East Scotland College
- West Lothian College
- West Highland College UHI
- University of Stirling
- University of Abertay
- University of Strathclyde
- University of Aberdeen
If you have any ideas as to any other support sparqs could usefully provide to institutions, please get in touch, as we would welcome your input.
For more information on the pilot, or for support with your GAP, please contact Lindsay Isaacs.