Equal opportunities statement

The Senate has approved an equal opportunities policy relating to students:

"The University of Sheffield is committed to a comprehensive policy of equal opportunities for students and prospective students in its admissions policy, in all aspects of its teaching and examining, and in its provision of student services and related facilities.

The aim of the policy is to ensure that all students are treated equally, irrespective of race, colour, nationality, ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, marital or parental status, age, disability, political or religious belief, or socio-economic class.

The University's equal opportunities policy relating to students is augmented by specific policies on personal harassment and on the support of students with disabilities. The equal opportunities policy for students reflects the University's comprehensive policy of equal opportunities in employment.

The University is committed to a programme of continuous review and action to ensure that these policies remain effective."

Details of the Equal Opportunities Policy can also be found in the University's Student Charter.

The application form includes a question on ethnic origin that is removed before the form is forwarded to the academic department. At the end of the year, data on the ethnic origin of applicants will be made available so that it will be possible to monitor the University's performance in this area.

The Commission for Racial Equality has prepared a Code of Practice for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in Education. This is a non-statutory code, but it has received the endorsement of the Secretary of State for Education who has commended it to higher education institutions. The relevant sections of the Code are as follows:

Section 23 It is unlawful to refuse to admit a pupil or student to a school or college on racial grounds.

Section 24 Thus, it would be unlawful for those responsible for pupil and student admissions to impose racial quotas, for instance to achieve a racial balance.

Section 27 With respect to university, polytechnic and college admissions, it would be unlawful to reject an applicant on racial grounds, or if factors have been considered which are not taken into account for applicants of other racial groups.

Section 28 Apart from direct discrimination on racial rounds, indirect discrimination may occur if admissions criteria exclude a greater proportion of pupils or students from particular racial groups and those criteria cannot be shown to be justifiable on educational or other grounds. Admissions criteria operate in all sectors of education.

Section 34 Admissions criteria and procedures vary both within and between further and higher education institutions. Different colleges, faculties, departments and courses will stipulate different academic requirements and apply a variety of non-academic criteria.

Section 35 It is unlawful to refuse to admit applicants on racial grounds, or expect ethnic minority students to have better qualifications than others.

Section 36 Requiring academic attainment that is in excess of the particular knowledge and skills needed to undertake the course would be indirectly discriminatory if this had the effect of excluding a considerably higher proportion of students from a particular racial group and these requirements could not be shown to be justifiable on educational grounds.

Section 37 The application of non-academic criteria in determining admissions, particularly where courses are over-subscribed and there is a supply of well-qualified applicants, may have the effect of excluding disproportionately high numbers of applicants from particular racial groups who are otherwise academically suitable. Where they do so they would constitute unlawful indirect discrimination if they could not be shown to be justified. Examples of such criteria might include:

hobbies; cultural interests; attitudes; sporting activities; family connections; type of school attended; communication skills; and appearance.