Under the Equality Act 2010, it is against the law to discriminate against someone because of:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage and civil partnership
- Pregnancy and maternity
- Religion or belief
- Sexual orientation
These are called protected characteristics, which the Collaborative Training Partnership for Fruit Crop Research recognises and will respect as it is required to do under the Act.
The Collaborative Training Partnership for Fruit Crop Research is committed to actively promoting the equality of opportunity in research and aims to create a culture of equality, diversity, and inclusion within its student cohort and throughout the programme. The CTP recognises the benefits of diversity and inclusiveness, aiming to broadly represent all sectors of British society in its student cohort. Our underpinning objectives are to attract, recruit and provide a positive environment to retain the most talented applicants, irrespective of any specific characters (e.g. gender, race, sexual orientation, disability).
Our approach to EDI is underpinned by the institutional frameworks of all our industry and university partners. All partners have a fundamental commitment to progressing and embedding equality, diversity, and inclusion principles and practice in the pursuit of excellence. As an example, the School of Life Sciences at the University of Essex holds the Athena SWAN Silver Award for equality and diversity, which is a charter established in 2005 managed by the UK Equality Challenge Unit that recognises and celebrates good practices in higher education and research institutions towards the advancement of gender equality: representation, progression, and success for all. All CTP academic partners have formal policies in adopting and policing EDI regulations (e.g. mandatory EDI and unconscious bias training), which are available from their respective websites. Our university partners also assist the CTP by providing fee waivers for international students to increase diversity in accordance with BBSRC policy.
A targeted approach will be adopted to increase diversity and ensure equality at all levels of the Collaborative Training Partnership programme, including promotion, recruitment, selection of supervisors, monitoring and reporting, and provision of a conducive environment for research and student cohort activities.
The Partnership’s Governance Committee (GC) is responsible for monitoring and overseeing our EDI progress, along with formal reporting to external bodies as required. EDI performance assessment and any actions required will be a standing agenda item at the 6-monthly GC meetings. Everyone engaged in the CTP has the opportunity to raise any EDI-related issues (confidentially if required) through the formal quarterly student monitoring meetings or directly to the CTP Project Co-ordinator, who has specific responsibility for student welfare and supervisory team EDI-compliance. Any issue raised will be discussed and resolved in the GC meetings. If deemed necessary, extraordinary GC meetings will be called to discuss and resolve urgent EDI issues.
The current CTP EDI metrics shown below are based on the total number of 314 applicants and 32 appointed applicants over the four recruitment years (2018 – 2021). Please note that the numbers are partly affected by the eligibility criteria required by BBSRC in respect of international applicants, particularly for the 2021 cohort.
We are pleased with the ratio of male to female students appointed to the CTPs studentships and believe that we have allocated them fairly based on talent as well as sex. We see no need to change our approach towards this metric going forward.
The balance of age within our student cohort is reasonable and we are especially pleased to have had the opportunity to offer studentships to more senior applicants as shown in the age profile above, which we believe shows a good balance.
Part of the rationale for the CTP studentships is to build capacity in the number of individuals able to serve the sector in the future post their degrees. For this reason alone it is more challenging to award studentships to very senior applicants as their ability to serve the horticultural industry in the period after their research is more constrained. That said, we will endeavour to remove any age bias in the final decision regarding making an award, and intellectual capability, prior education, experience, attitude, and stated interest in the topic are the overriding criteria employed.
Whilst we are pleased to have had the opportunity to award studentships to individuals with a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, it remains a challenge for the CTP to ensure that the studentships offered are made known to all ethnicities in British society, or to overseas students when the funding criteria allow, especially if the individual is not currently in education at one of the CTP’s university partners.
The CTP believes that it has made a reasonable start to ensure that its’ student cohort is sufficiently diverse and representative, but it also recognises that this is one area that remains work-in-progress. In particular, we need to be more proactive and attract more Asian British and Black British applicants in the future, which we will endeavour to attract through more targeted advertising on specific BAME and diversity websites as well as through social media websites that are more likely to be seen by these communities.
The CTP wishes to ensure that their studentship opportunities are available to all those with the intellectual capability to carry out the research regardless of any physical disability. Some disabilities are not obvious. Historically, a large percentage of the applicants have either not disclosed their disability or have withheld the information for personal reasons, possibly in the belief that this will count against them, although this is far from the case.
In the applications received to date, the CTP has positively discriminated in favour of appointing disabled candidates as they face many more challenges in life than able-bodied applicants. We plan to continue to do so in the future as long as the disability is not so severe that the likely success in completing the studentship project could be significantly compromised.
The CTP does not discriminate on the basis of an applicant’s sexuality, nor do we seek to be inquisitive or intrusive about their sexuality in interviews. However, where candidates make us aware of their sexual preference, we endeavour to ensure that no element of bias is included in the decision as to whether to award a studentship or not, which ultimately will be decided based on intellectual capability, prior education, experience, attitude and stated interest in the topic.
The CTP will endeavour to target their advertising to attract more LBGTQ+ candidates in the future using appropriate social media and other sector websites, which are likely to be seen by these individuals.
The CTP does not currently collect metrics regarding applicants’ religion as it is not required to do so by the funders, BBSRC. The CTP does not plan to collect this information in the immediate future but this position will be regularly reviewed from time to time, especially if an element of bias appears to have occurred.
The CTP supports religious freedom and respects all those that wish to practice their beliefs. Any student appointed to a CTP project will be able to carry out their worship as required by their religion.
The CTP does not currently collect metrics regarding applicants’ socio-economic background as it is not required to do so by the funders, BBSRC. The CTP does not plan to collect this information in the immediate future but this position will be regularly reviewed from time to time, especially if an element of bias appears to have occurred.
The CTP is agnostic in respect of socio-economic background but, if all other factors are equal, will favour those applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds in order that they may achieve their highest potential.