Lack of diversity on college boards revealed in new report alongside steps to improve diversity in governance

16 Nov 2021

Today (16 November), Association of Colleges (AoC) has released a report revealing the composition of further education college boards across the country and attitudes towards inclusion. In an effort to boost participation of under-represented groups and improve diversity in governance, The Current Status of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in the Further Education Sector in England makes a series of recommendations to support college boards to achieve their EDI objectives. 

An average college board is comprised of between 17 and 19 members. Key findings include: 

Nearly half (46%) of boards reported 10 or more male members (8 in total could report 10 or more females)

Just under a third (32%) of boards had no Asian/Asian British board member, while over half (51%) reported no Black/Black British board member

Just under two thirds (63%) of boards had no members declaring a physical disability

Less than 1% of boards had a member identifying as non-heterosexual or with a gender reassigned member

Nine in ten (90%) boards had 2 or fewer under 24’s

Fewer than 20% of boards had members declaring a mental health issue

A high proportion of board members are confident in their Board’s intentions to promote EDI, but more cautious about how far they have got in implementing EDI. A qualitative document analysis of Board minutes and annual EDI reports from the colleges involved suggests there is a polarisation in the FE Sector between colleges and Boards which have already fully embraced EDI and those which are currently finding their way towards this goal. Nearly half (47%) have EDI ‘formally embedded’ or an EDI strategy as part of its ‘core function’, but just under a third (31%) are not ‘actively promoting EDI’ or ‘overseeing it’. 

The report makes a range of recommendations to support more college boards to improve their EDI outcomes:

  • All Boards need to ensure that they have a clear and contextualised definition of EDI
  • Boards early on in their journey to EDI should identify models of best practice and work through the elements that fit with their context
  • Boards need to put in place evidence-based strategies to promote EDI
  • Boards need to ‘bookend’ efforts to improve EDI with audits of issues and outcomes
  • The focus of efforts to promote EDI needs to be realigned towards inclusion
  • Boards should identify the most effective training interventions to promote EDI
  • Boards should capitalise on the enthusiasm of their members for EDI activities
  • EDI policies need to be regularly and conscientiously updated and held on websites in line with legal requirements
  • Government and other authorities need to support the FE Sector with resources
  • Research is needed to combine objective measures with 360o views of EDI

Chief Executive of Association of Colleges, David Hughes said:

“We conducted this survey and research because we know there is a huge job to be one to recruit governors from diverse backgrounds and communities. Colleges are some of the most diverse institutions in the country in terms of their students, but there is more work to be representative amongst senior staff and leaders. This report provides a baseline to work from and highlight the challenges that remain around representation, diversity and inclusion in our sector. I want colleges to use this to continue the honest conversations they’ve begun and the positive progress so many have made on EDI over recent months. This a prime opportunity to recognise where we’re falling short and put in place the strategies and plans to create change.” 

The report is available to download below.