Don't cost equality 1

September 13, 2002

How I despair when I hear opinions on disability such as those expressed by Peter Lumsden ("Why I believe there are limits on what universities can do to deal with disability", THES , August 23).

In his role as co-chair of a disability review panel, I would have expected him to be championing the cause of staff and students with disabilities, whereas he is finding loopholes in order to avoid having to take action. This is too often the route taken by universities to avoid costly legislation.

Of course, I understand that higher education is desperately underfunded, but while every employer robs Peter to pay Paul, this will never end. If you look back to the recent government initiative Rewarding and Developing Staff , you will find that some institutions read the list of things they had to achieve, wrote a list of things they planned to achieve and then received extra funding. But, surprise, surprise, some institutions were already doing some of the things on the planning list so the cash was hived off to other areas instead of being used to additionally "reward and develop" staff.

Equality is about generating a society in which all can reach their goals. If that means that some staff and students have to be helped in different ways, then so be it. It is not about reasonability and cost. Employers have a responsibility to address equality issues no matter what it costs and regardless of the limitations of the allowances provided from central government funding.

Mr Lumsden's comment that "offering unregulated support may cause a student to fail to develop skills and capacity for independent learning" would be comical if it were not so insulting. If you use the same argument, maybe we should remove all tutorial and pastoral care and support from all students as this could surely have the same effect?

Why are equality issues such an uphill struggle? Surely we all want equality for all our staff and students. Surely we all know the actions that need to be taken. Stop trying to find loopholes - simply address the situation. If funding is the problem, why are we not all shouting it from the rooftops together?

Maggie Martin
Branch secretary, Unison
Nottingham Trent University

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