Monitoring & Equality Impact Assessments

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Dear Magdalen College, Oxford,

Please supply me with details of your monitoring of employees and students and results of Equality Impact Assessments as required by law under the Race Relations(Amendment)Act 2000, in relation to:

1. disciplinary action (students & employees)
2. training (employees)
3. promotion (employees)
4. leaving your employment-showing reason for doing so-i.e. termination & grounds.(employees)
5. admissions (students)
6. achievements (students)

Yours faithfully,

Gregory Lewis

Dear Magdalen College, Oxford,

Re: Delayed FOI Request.

By law, you should normally have responded promptly and by 29 November.

Yours faithfully,

Gregory Lewis

Nancy Cowell, Magdalen College, Oxford

Dear Mr Lewis,

Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to your enquiry
at this exceptionally busy time of year. The answers to your six
questions are given below, together with some important contextual

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,
Mark Pobjoy

Magdalen College regards as abhorrent the notion that unlawful
discrimination should be allowed to harm an individual’s opportunities
for education or employment, and fully supports the aims of the Race
Relations (Amendment) Act. The College seeks through its policies in
general and through its Race Equality Policy and Action Plan in
particular to eliminate unlawful racial discrimination, promote equality
of opportunity, and promote good relations between people of different
racial groups. The College collaborates with the University to promote
Race Equality: full details of the University’s work in this area can be
found at

In conducting our monitoring and making our impact assessments we have
been conscious of the statistical limitations of the data available,
which affect the conclusions that can be drawn from them. This issue was
addressed earlier this month by the University in its response to
misleading press coverage on the question of the numbers of black
students at Oxford colleges. To quote from that response:

“Dr John Bithell, Emeritus Fellow in Statistics at St Peter’s College,
Oxford, explains it like this: ‘At the level of individual Oxford
colleges, numbers of black students getting a place are going to be very
much subject to the vagaries of chance. If there were 50 or 60 students
of black origin at Oxford, they would not be distributed with one or two
at every college. Just by chance, some colleges could have 4 or 5 black
students, while others may have no acceptances in a particular year. For
the numbers to be big enough to be “statistically significant” – meaning
that the data would seem reasonably unlikely to have occurred purely by
chance in that way – we need to look at acceptance rates at the
University level across all colleges.’ That University-wide data by
ethnicity, school type, geographic region and other factors is published
openly each year.” See the following web page for those data:

In making available information about our monitoring and our impact
assessments, the College is also acutely conscious of the need to
respect the rights of its students and staff. Since the Freedom of
Information Act came into force, there have been several requests where
small number statistics have been deemed to be personal data by the
Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and/or the Information Tribunal,
because of the risk that individuals could be identified by
cross-referencing the data with other information or knowledge. If
statistics constitute personal data, and if disclosure would breach data
protection principles, they are exempt from disclosure under Section
40(2) of the FOIA. Furthermore, information about racial or ethnic
origin is classified as ‘sensitive personal data’ under the Data
Protection Act. Sensitive personal data are subject to a higher level of
protection. Disclosure of ‘ordinary’ personal data under the FOIA must
comply with the data protection principles in Schedule 1 of the DPA and
meet one of the conditions in Schedule 2. The disclosure of sensitive
personal data must, in addition to these requirements, meet one of the
conditions in Schedule 3 of the DPA (see

In respect of your six questions, the answers are as follows:

1. Disciplinary action (students and employees)

Disciplinary action in respect of students is conducted according to
procedures laid out in the Information and Regulations for Members of
the College and falls under two headings, non-academic and academic.
Oversight of the former falls to the two Deans of Arts, of the latter to
the Senior Tutor. Disciplinary action in respect of employees is
conducted in accordance with detailed procedures written by reference to
the ACAS Code of Practice. The College has a wide-ranging Code of
Practice on Harassment which is distributed to all students and members
of staff.

Serious disciplinary cases are rare. We have found no evidence of
behaviour leading to disciplinary action which involves any racial
element, and no evidence of the according of less favourable treatment
in respect of race in the application of disciplinary procedures. There
has not been a single case of harassment in respect of race brought
under our Code of Practice on Harassment. The degree to which this is
attributable to our Race Equality Policy is difficult to say, but there
is at least no evidence that it has been ineffective.

2. Training (employees)

Certain sorts of training are compulsory for all College employees in
particular departments, or for all individuals with particular
responsibilities for a department. For example, Disciplinary, Grievance,
and Investigation Training is compulsory for line managers at the
College, and includes specific guidance on what constitutes direct and
indirect discrimination on the basis of the nine protected
characteristics, including race.

In addition to compulsory training, opportunities arise for voluntary
training. The Human Resources Officer (for non-academic employees) and
the Senior Tutor (for academic employees) ensure that these are
available equally to all employees who are eligible to be considered for

3. Promotion (employees)

In an institution which is a small part of a much bigger institution,
there are rarely opportunities for promotion, given the comparatively
low number of positions in any given department. It is much more usual
for an employee to move to a higher-level position elsewhere than within
the College, simply because it is elsewhere that job vacancies arise.
Internal vacancies are notified to all employees of the College. In the
rare cases of internal promotion, we have found no evidence of the
according of less favourable treatment in respect of race, and no reason
to think that our Race Equality Policy has been ineffective.

4. Leaving your employment – showing reason for doing so – i.e.
termination & grounds (employees)

This is in part covered by the answer to 1 above. No racial issues have
arisen in respect of termination of employment, and we have found no
evidence of the according of less favourable treatment in respect of
race in this area.

5. Admissions (students)

The College collaborates with the University in graduate admissions (for
which the University has primary responsibility), and follows the Common
Framework for Undergraduate Admissions approved by the collegiate
University. Training is provided by the University for those engaged in
admissions work at the College. The College’s revisions of its
admissions prospectus and its admissions website took account of the
importance of re-emphasizing the College’s absolute commitment to
equality of opportunity in its admission of students. In the information
we have on the composition of our student body by ethnic group in recent
years, we have found no statistically significant divergence from the
University averages. Our assessment is that our Race Equality Policy is
effective in this area, and that we should continue to give thought to
ways of attracting more BME candidates who meet the published selection
criteria to apply for admission to the College.

6. Achievements (students)

Student achievements fall into a number of different categories. The one
where we have data which allow a direct comparison with University
averages is the performance of students in their Final Examinations
(‘Norrington scores’) by ethnic group. In almost all cases, each ethnic
group represented in each year at Magdalen has performed at least as
well as the University average, but in the vast majority of cases each
ethnic group has performed at a higher level – and frequently a much
higher level – than the University average for that ethnic group. In
this area too, we have assessed our Race Equality Policy, in the context
of a large number of our other policies, as being effective.

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Mrs Nancy Cowell
College Secretary/Academic Administrator
Magdalen College, Oxford OX1 4AU
Tel: 01865 276113; Fax: 01865 276094
[Magdalen College request email]