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  1. The Open University Equality and Diversity
  2. Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

In this section of our website, we have included a number of frequently asked questions covering a wide range of individual circumstances, and which may be relevant to job applicants, enquirers and students. Information for OU staff is provided on the equality and diversity intranet. If you are unable to find the answer to your question, please contact us.

Access to equality monitoring information is controlled and stored securely. The information can be viewed by those staff that provide information, advice and guidance to you, and staff that need to update your student record. Your tutor does not have access to this information, but may be provided with some information, such as if you have a disability, where it is relevant to teaching.

Due to the relatively small size of most regional and national centres, there is insufficient space for dedicated prayer or meditation facilities. If you are a member of staff, space will be made available wherever possible to accommodate your religious observance. If you are a student or member of the public attending an event or meeting at a centre, and you require a quiet space, please advise staff at the centre in advance, so that every effort can be made to accommodate your request. A dedicated prayer room is provided at the Walton Hall campus.

There is no particular dress code at tutorials. You can wear whatever you like, providing you feel comfortable. At a small number of residential schools, there may be a restriction on what you can wear for health and safety reasons. Information about any restrictions will be advised to students in advance.

There is a network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff and postgraduate research students, one for disabled staff and one for ethnic minority staff. There is also a Hong Kong Chinese staff network and a network to advance careers of women. Further information is available to staff on the intranet.

The OU Students Association has established a number of online forums on a range of equality topics. You can search the OUSA Forum Index for your area of interest. There is a Disability Forum, Mental Health Forum and Disabled Students Group, an LGBT forum, Pregnancy Support and Parenting forums, Pagan, Christian Fellowship and Prayer Circle forums, to name just a few. It is also possible for students to request new forums to be set up by OUSA.

You may feel uncomfortable about being asked to label yourself, as what should matter are your experience, abilities and learning or employment goals. However, your ethnicity, religion or belief, sexuality, and other characteristics can sometimes affect how you are treated. Discrimination is sometimes direct, but is more often indirect, as a result of criteria or practices that unintentionally exclude or disadvantage people. The University has a duty to prevent unlawful discrimination on these grounds and monitoring is one way of meeting this duty. Evidence from monitoring allows us to highlight different experiences and outcomes, and take action to address inequalities. Many other universities and employers now ask these questions as standard for the same reasons.

We recognise that some people transition from one gender to another with relative ease and others do not. Whatever your individual circumstances, we will respond in a supportive way. If you apply for a job or register for study, we will not ask you to declare if you are transgender, however you may want to disclose this if you have particular needs, for example, if you are concerned about how others may react, or if you will require time off for medical appointments or procedures. Your line manager (for staff) or a named contact (for students) will discuss your circumstances and needs with you and develop a confidential action plan to manage issues such as disclosing to others and changing University records where appropriate. A policy document and guidance has been created for staff and their line managers and is available to staff on the HR intranet. The student policy and guidance is in the Essential Documents for student’s website.

The Open University websites aim to achieve World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative Priority 2 level. We include a variety of accessibility features from the outset, and provide guidance to our website users to enable individuals to utilise web technologies. View further information about our websites' accessibility

Our open access policy means that you do not require formal proof of English language ability to study with us. If you want to assess your English language ability, you can check the information and guidance in Is my English good enough?. You can also visit English and OU Study for examples of how English is used in OU study and for activities to help you asses your English skills. Finally, take advantage of the variety of resources in Skills for OU Study to improve your reading and writing skills in academic English.

Access to equality monitoring information is strictly controlled. Staff tutors and staffing administrators are able to view and maintain staff records however they are not able to view equality monitoring information. This information is shown as either a blank field (indicating that no information has been entered), or a starred field (indicating that information has been entered). In order to manage and maintain University systems, some staff in Human Resources and in Information Technology are able to access all information on staff records, and are bound by strict confidentiality protocols.

The University has a legitimate purpose in requesting that you provide equal opportunities information and will contact all new and existing staff and students from time to time to ask you to maintain your student or staff record. It will greatly assist us in monitoring equality of opportunity if you can provide this information. Our aim is to ensure that no student or staff group experiences disadvantage because of individual characteristics or circumstances. If you object to providing a response to a particular equal opportunities question for any reason, you can state 'I do not wish to declare'.

At December 2012, 33% of the most senior job roles at the University were held by women. In the five years from 2008 to 2012, women were slightly more likely to be promoted than men overall. The OU has around twice the proportion of female professors in comparison to the sector overall. A large volume of statistics is published every year on [this website].

Under our Welsh Language Scheme it may be possible to arrange for a Welsh-speaking tutor to mark your assignments. To discuss what might be available please contact The Open University in Wales, in either English or Welsh, as soon as you register on your module. You can telephone 02920 471170 or email wales@open.ac.uk.

The Open University is more than just a place of learning — it is a community. As members of the community, we have responsibilities to each other, which, if we all meet them, will allow everyone to achieve their full potential. The first principle in the Student Charter states that we treat each other with dignity and respect. This means that we value diversity, we challenge inequalities, we respect the rights of individuals to hold different beliefs and views, and we respect confidentiality. The full equality and diversity responsibilities for students and staff are shown in section 1.4 of the Equality Scheme.

We will not tolerate any form of bullying or harassment. Examples include unwanted physical contact, personal insults or name-calling, sexual innuendo, coercion, constant unfounded criticism, unwanted intrusion, persistent patronising or excluding, and derogatory comments. This is not an exhaustive list and further examples are included in the Bullying and Harassment Student Code], and the equivalent code for staff, available on the HR intranet. Part 2 of the code covers the procedures for making a complaint, and details of how your complaint will be managed.