SAGE welcomes the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report’s strong focus on equity.

As the leading provider of tailored workplace equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) programs for the sector, SAGE has deep experience working with universities through the Athena Swan Framework to build more safe and equitable workplaces where people of all backgrounds and identities can flourish.

We are largely supportive of the proposals within the report, particularly in relation to increased focus on student equity. However, staff equity, diversity and inclusion amongst staff is central to realising student equity.

Making diverse life experiences in research journeys and teaching careers (such as STEMM) visible to students is an essential tool for ensuring that students from all backgrounds, experiences and identities can see something of themselves somewhere in the university.

To realise staff equity, diversity and inclusion, we recommend the Accord:

  1. Develop a sector-wide strategy to embed equity, diversity and inclusion.
  2. Link research and grant funding to a commitment to gender equity, diversity and inclusion.
  3. Set targets to reach population parity for gender, First Nations, ethnic and disability representation in the university staff body.

In addition, we encourage the Accord to consider the potential consequences of a student participation increase on the workload and wellbeing of university academic and professional staff. This is because research from Australia shows that widening pool of students is likely to increase demand for student services, including from research and teaching staff.  Research also suggests that pastoral or student care often falls to women. The Accord should consider how pastoral care can be appropriately valued and ensure that it is a concern for all university staff.

Thus, we also recommend the Accord:

  1. Allocate dedicated funding for universities to implement systemic and structural workplace equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) initiatives.

As the Accord proceeds, we welcome any opportunities to work with the government on key issues and challenges.