The Impact of the Public Sector Equality Duties on higher education: a case study

  • Melanie Crofts

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The Public Sector Equality Duties (PSEDs) are a radical development in anti-discrimination legislation due to the emphasis on the need for public authorities to be proactive in order to address institutional discrimination. They require public authorities to take a substantive approach to equality by removing institutional barriers and focussing on equality outcomes. The aim of this thesis is to consider the implementation and impact of this innovative legislative approach to equality, with specific attention given to race and disability within a Higher Education Institution (HEI). It is demonstrated that senior management are not sympathetic to the substantive equality approach which is required by the PSEDs and instead operate with a formal understanding of equality. In addition, as the external pressures on Higher Education Institutions to comply with the legal requirements diminish over time, the processes established to deal with equality as well as legal compliance within the case study institution have weakened. As a consequence, there is a gap between what the law requires and what is happening in practice. At the same time, the experiences of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) and disabled staff and students indicate that they are still experiencing significant disadvantage within the case study institution. As well as enduring individual instances of discrimination, broader institutional barriers are also evident. An institutional response to address the disadvantage, which is required by the PSEDs, is not visible. It is surmised that this is due to the adoption of the fairness as opposed to a substantive approach to equality. Critical Race Theory (CRT) is employed in order to provide an explanation for the findings within the case study institution. Although it can be used to help account for the data in relation to race, there are limitations in terms of its application to the data regarding disability. CRT acknowledges the intersections between race and other forms of oppression, such as disability, although its focus is still on race as the primary factor for oppression. However, some of the key concepts utilised by Critical Race theorists, such as contradiction closing cases and interest convergence, can also be usefully applied to the data relating to disability.
Date of Award2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Northampton
SupervisorAndrew Pilkington (Supervisor)

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